Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Minister Authorised DG To Approve Visas, Court Told

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 (Bernama) -- The Home Minister who is supposed to be responsible for approving visas with reference code VDR (calling visas for Bangladesh workers), authorised the Immigration Department director-general (DG) to handle the task from June 2008, the Sessions Court here was told Monday.

Testifying in the corruption trial of former Immigration Department DG Datuk Wahid Md Don, Muhammad Hanif Asa'ari, 32, the special aide of Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar (the Home Minister then), said Syed Hamid delegated the task to the DG as he had to spend too much time approving each application, which was made using the online method.

Muhammad Hanif, who is the prosecution's third witness, said Wahid on June 10 2008 made an application for the password to enable him to handle the task on and it was approved by Syed Hamid the next day via a letter but with certain conditions attached.

"They were the minister's password would not be revoked and that the DG had to submit weekly and monthly reports on the visa applications to him (Syed Hamid)," said Muhammad while displaying the letter dated June 11 2008.

The letter also stated that approvals could only be made at the DG level.

Asked by Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Jazamuddin Mohd Nawawi during examination-in-chief as to what grounds Wahid used to apply for permission to make the approvals, Muhammad Hanif said : "He stated that the number of applications for the VDR visas were rather high, standing at 22,854, and it was estimated 91,607 applications had yet to be submitted."

On Aug 19 last year, Wahid, 57, was charged with accepting a bribe of RM60,000 from businessman Datuk Low Chang Hian to expedite the VDR applications of 4,337 Bangladeshi workers.

He is alleged to have committed the offence at his house in Jalan Lembah Ledang, off Jalan Duta here at 10.15pm on July 10, 2008.

He has been charged under Section 1 (a) of the Anti-Corruption Act 1997 and is liable to be jailed not less than 14 days and not more than 20 years, fined not less less than five times the corrupt amount or RM10,000, whichever is is higher, if convicted.

Cross-examined by counsel Datuk V. Sithambaramm, who is representing Wahid, whether Muhammad Hanif knew why the DG submitted the application for the minister's permission to approve the visas, Muhammad Hanif said: "Generally, at the time, because of the heavy workload the minister had, he no longer was able to handle approving the huge number of VDR applications individually and indicated the need to hand over the task to the DG."

To a suggestion by Sithambaram that what was told during the meeting (on the matter) that all applications to get VDR visas cound only be processed at the DG level was not accurate, Muhammad Hanif said if it was based on the minutes it was accurate.

However, he agreed that the minister's decision to keep the password to enable him to access the website for the applications was in conflict with what was decided at the meeting.

Muhammad Hanif also said while Syed Hamid was still handling the responsibility, in June and till July 12 of that year he had approved VDR applications but did not know the number.

Sithambaram had earlier asked him if he knew the minister had approved 2,824 and 3,984 applications respectively in the two months.

The hearing before judge Rosbiahanin Arifin continues on Wednesday. -- BERNAMA

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