KUALA LUMPUR: A senior private secretary to the former Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister has been instructed to enter his defence against eight charges of accepting a bribe of RM1.77 million, related to a tender for advertising services under the ministry six years ago.

Sessions Court Judge Suzana Hussin ruled this after finding the prosecution had proven a prima facie case against Mohd Saifullah Mohd Minggu @ Mohd Hisham (pix), 33, at the end of the prosecution's case.

The court however, acquitted and released Mohd Saifullah of 11 charges of soliciting and accepting bribes amounting to RM820,530 in connection with the same tender.

Mohd Saifullah's fiancee, Nurfadziana Abdul Kadir, 32, was also acquitted and released of the charge of abetting with the accused to accept a bribe of RM232,000 after finding that the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case.

Judge Suzana informed Mohd Saifullah that he has three options for his defence - to remain silent, to testify in the accused's dock without swearing, or to testify under oath in the witness stand, where he can be cross-examined.

Counsel Haijan Omar representing Mohd Saifullah informed the court that his client opted to testify from the witness stand under oath and agreed to be cross-examined.

In addition, he said the defence intends to call three witnesses including Mohd Saifullah, to testify.

Also present at today's proceedings were deputy public prosecutors Low Chin How, Noor Syafina Mohd Redzuan, Muhammad Asraf Mohamed Tahir and Nurul Atiqah Mohamad Alias.

According to the eight charges, Mohd Saifullah is accused of receiving a bribe totalling RM1,765,000 from the owner of Inter Bev Network Sdn Bhd, Ronald Seto Kong Seng, through Roslan Lahada as an inducement to secure a tender for ‘Branding and Creative Production Services'.

The charges relate to Tourism Malaysia's advertising campaign for the Digital Promotion and Advertising Proposal in conjunction with the 2020 Visit Malaysia Year tender and the alleged bribe involves the Inter Bev Network company and direct negotiations for the tender with Plan B Digital Sdn Bhd.

The offences were allegedly committed at various locations, including Red Box Karaoke and Coffee Bean outlet at the Pavilion shopping mall, the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), the office of the senior private secretary to the minister in the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, Vipod Residences, and Petronas Dengkil, between 11 am and 11.30 pm from Dec 21, 2018 to March 1, 2019.

For the charge of soliciting and accepting bribes, Mohd Saifullah was charged under Section 16(a)(B) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, while Nurfadziana was charged under Section 28(1) and both individuals could face punishment under Section 24 of the same act.

If convicted, the accused can face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of either five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The court set April 17 for the trial. -Bernama

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