KUALA LUMPUR – A Malaysian court on Monday dismissed 47 corruption charges against Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi after prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the charges at an advanced stage of his trial.
Zahid said the High Court approved the prosecutors' application for a dismissal but refused to grant him a full acquittal, which means he can still be recharged. But he said he was grateful that the “politically motivated accusations against me have ended.”
Zahid heads the United Malays National Organization, and his support has been pivotal in helping Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim form a unity government after last November's general election led to a hung Parliament. Zahid’s dismissal sparked new criticism and further hurt the anti-corruption stance of Anwar’s government. Opposition leaders have alleged that Zahid supported Anwar so the charges against him could be dropped.
Monday’s court ruling came just weeks after local elections in which the Islamist-Malay nationalist opposition bloc made further inroads in government-ruled states.
Lead prosecutor Mohamad Dusuki Mokhtar was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying that the charges against Zahid were temporarily halted to prevent any miscarriage of justice. He said Zahid raised new issues and evidence in an appeal to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for the charges to be dropped.
That included claims that his case had been rushed through and that he was a victim of selective prosecution by the previous government. Dusuki said further investigations would be carried out by the anti-graft agency.
Zahid's lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, said the defense will apply for a full acquittal. The dismissal came despite the court's ruling in January 2022 that prosecutors had proven a case against Zahid and ordered him to enter his defense.
Critics slammed the prosecution's move to withdraw the charges. Former lawmaker and civil society reformist Maria Chin said it was a sad day for democracy because the dismissal was “tantamount to saying corruption is OK.” Opposition lawmaker Wan Saiful Wan Jan said it destroyed Anwar's credibility as a reformist, and accused the premier of being “willing to do anything to stay in power.”
Zahid, 70, was charged after the long-ruling UMNO-led coalition lost the 2018 general election because of public anger over corruption. Then-Prime Minister Najib Razak was charged in several graft cases and is serving a 12-year jail term after losing a final appeal in one of the cases.
Zahid faced 12 counts of criminal breach of trust, 27 counts of money laundering and eight counts of bribery involving more than 31 million ringgit ($6.7 million) from his family foundation. More than 110 witnesses have testified. Prosecutors alleged that money intended for charity was misappropriated for his personal use, including to pay off his credit cards and for shopping.
This story corrects the prosecutor's name to Mohamad instead of Ahmad.