KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian high court acquitted a former deputy prime minister of 40 bribery charges, saying the prosecution had failed to provide enough evidence, a state news agency reported on Friday.
Bernama reported that Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was one of many high-ranking officials, including ex-premier Najib Razak, charged with corruption in 2018 when the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party was voted out from power due to widespread anger over graft.
Najib, in whose government Zahid served, started a 12-year jail term last month after being convicted of corruption and abuse of power over a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
Zahid had been accused of receiving about US$11 million in bribes from a company to win government contracts over a foreign visa system. He had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The prosecution can appeal the verdict in Zahid's case in higher courts following the acquittal by the Shah Alam High Court.
While Zahid has no official position in the current government, he remains highly influential as president of UMNO, which is the main component of the ruling coalition.
The UMNO party came back to power in 2020 after an alliance led by Mahathir Mohamad that won the 2018 election collapsed from infighting.
Zahid has been urging Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is also from the UMNO party, to call for early elections ahead of a September 2023 deadline.
Zahid also faces another case involving 47 charges of bribery, money laundering and criminal breach of trust. The trial is ongoing.