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Malaysia's Umno president Zahid claims trial to 45 charges

Malaysian opposition leader and former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrived at the Kuala Lumpur court complex on Friday, where he is expected to face 45 charges for criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering involving some RM7 million (S$2.32 million).

[KUALA LUMPUR] Former Malaysian deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claimed trial on Friday to 45 charges of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering involving some RM114 million (S$37.8 million).

Zahid faces 10 charges under Section 409 of the Penal Code, eight under Section 16 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 and 27 under Section 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

He pleaded not guilty. Bail was set at RM2 million, to be paid in two instalments - RM1 million on Friday and the remaining amount to be paid by next week.

Zahid, 65, was also asked to surrender his passport.

He is the first Umno president to be charged in court, in a major blow to the once-mighty Malaysian political party that ruled the country for 61 years. Zahid was deputy prime minister under Najib Razak, whose government was ousted in elections in May amid widespread anger over a corruption scandal that engulfed the state fund 1MDB.

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He was arrested on Thursday afternoon at the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya, and spent the night in the anti-graft agency's lockup. 

Earlier, sources said he was expected to face a total of 35 charges. The additional 10 charges were confirmed only on Thursday, a source told The Straits Times.

One of the charges is believed to be related to claims that RM800,000 of funds from Zahid's charity, Yayasan Akalbudi, had been used to pay for Zahid's and his wife's credit card bills between 2014 and 2015.

Zahid has said the payments were due to an error by an aide, and he has since settled the bills himself.

Supporters in red gathered outside the Kuala Lumpur court complex, carrying banners to show their solidarity with the Umno president. 

Zahid, wearing a red orange batik shirt, waved briefly when he arrived. 

Former prime minister Najib Razak and several other Umno members were in court to show their support. Zahid's wife and other family members were also present.

Zahid was the home minister who controlled the MACC until the May general election, when the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was toppled from power.

His former boss, Najib, is facing 32 charges involving criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power over hundreds of millions of dollars found in his bank account.

Zahid took over the Umno leadership from Najib soon after the election defeat, promising to lead the party's rebound. But both he and the Malay nationalist party are struggling to adjust to their roles in the opposition, analysts say.

Umno leaders held a meeting on Wednesday evening after hearing that Mr Zahid would be arrested, and agreed to continue backing his leadership. "We have decided not to take any action, and instead will staunchly support him," The Star newspaper quoted Umno Supreme Council member Ahmad Maslan as saying.

The case will be mentioned again on Dec 14.


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