Najib's former deputy hit with new graft charges over visa system and centre in China

Najib's former deputy hit with new graft charges over visa system and centre in China

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was hit with seven fresh corruption charges Wednesday (Jun 26) for allegedly receiving about US$3 million in bribes from the operator of a visa application system and a visa centre in China. 

A key figure in the former regime under scandal-plagued ex-leader Najib Razak, Ahmad Zahid has now been charged with a total of 54 counts of corruption since his long-ruling coalition lost power last year.

The latest charges relate to allegations that he received S$4.2 million (US$3.1 million) in 2017 and 2018 from Syarikat Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd to extend its contract as the operator of the visa one-stop centre in China and the overseas visa system. 

Ahmad Zahid pleaded not guilty to all counts during a court appearance in Kuala Lumpur and was freed on bail. If found guilty, the 66-year-old faces a lengthy jail term.

He has denied all previous charges levelled at him.

He is also set to face a further 33 charges in court on Thursday for allegedly receiving US$10 million in kickbacks, according to the anti-graft agency.

The veteran politician is president of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the lynchpin in a coalition of parties that ruled Malaysia from independence in 1957 until their shock defeat in May polls.

But he has been placed on leave since he was first charged in October.

READ: UMNO president Ahmad Zahid hands over power to deputy

Najib has also been arrested and charged over allegations he oversaw the plundering of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a scandal that played a major part in the election defeat.

He has been on trial over the allegations since April.

US authorities say more than US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund and spent on everything from yachts to artwork.

Source: AFP/Bernama/zl(tx)