In Guan Eng’s trial, ex-Penang exco says denied taking RM50,000 from undersea tunnel contractor’s managing director

Lim Guan Eng at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, April 14, 2021. — Bernama pic
Lim Guan Eng at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, April 14, 2021. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 16 — Former Penang exco member Datuk Lim Hock Seng told the Sessions Court today he had denied to anti-corruption investigators that he received RM50,000 from the managing director of the contractor awarded a RM6.341 billion project to build three roads and an undersea tunnel.

He said this while testifying as the third prosecution witness in former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng’s corruption trial in relation to the Penang construction project.

Hock Seng was the Penang state executive councillor in charge of public works, utilities and transportation during the events leading up to the awarding of the project following an open tender exercise.

The project was eventually awarded to Consortium Zenith BUCG, whose managing director is Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli. In this trial, Guan Eng is accused of seeking and accepting bribes from Zarul.

During cross-examination by Guan Eng’s lawyer Gobind Singh Deo, Hock Seng confirmed being asked to provide his statement several times by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to assist in the latter’s investigation.

Hock Seng said MACC first came to his office around five years ago to ask him about the project, but that there were no further follow-ups for a time, until a subsequent time where he was called to the MACC’s Penang headquarters and shown documents and had his statement recorded.

When asked by Gobind if the MACC had shown any statements made by Zarul and asked him about such statements, Hock Seng said MACC did ask him verbally about whether Zarul had given him money.

Asked by Gobind if this was because Zarul told the MACC that he had given money to him, Hock Seng however said he did not know what Zarul told the MACC. 

“The MACC officer asked me if I received RM50,000 from Datuk Zarul, I did not receive anything from him, I answered like that,” Hock Seng said when explaining how he replied to the MACC, agreeing with Gobind that this was the “truth”.

Hock Seng said the MACC had asked him this question about three years ago.

Before continuing to cross-examine Hock Seng, Gobind informed the Sessions Court that he intends to make an application to obtain Zarul’s statement which was recorded by the MACC during the investigation.

“What I want is that statement to be presented to show Datuk Zarul has given false statement to MACC and in that situation his statement cannot be accepted at all as he is a liar,” Gobind said when asked to explain why he was seeking for such a document before continuing with the cross-examination of Hock Seng.

Deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said Gobind did write to the prosecution to ask for such a statement recorded by the MACC during investigations, but said this cannot be supplied as it is a privileged document.

Later, Gobind confirmed to reporters that the trial before Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi will resume this Wednesday, where he is expected to formally make the application for the MACC document and present full arguments to the court for the application. 

In this trial, Guan Eng is facing four charges, including the charge under Section 16(a)(A) of the MACC Act for having allegedly in March 2011 as the then Penang chief minister solicited kickbacks of 10 per cent of future profits from Zarul as a reward to help the latter’s company secure the project.

Guan Eng is also facing a charge under Section 23(1) of the MACC Act for allegedly receiving RM3.3 million in kickbacks from Zarul between January 2011 and October 2017 for allegedly helping the latter’s company secure the project.

The two remaining charges against Guan Eng involve alleged dishonest misappropriation of property on two plots of land belonging to the Penang government worth RM208.8 million to be disposed of to two companies (Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd and Zenith Urban Development Sdn Bhd).

Former Penang executive councillor Lim Hock Seng is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court July 15, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Former Penang executive councillor Lim Hock Seng is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court July 15, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

About Zarul and BUCG

Earlier in today’s court proceedings, Hock Seng confirmed that he had first knew of Zarul and Lee Chee Hoe who were representatives of the Beijing Urban Construction Group Sdn Bhd (BUCG), after Guan Eng had given their numbers to him on January 26, 2011 and asked him to contact them to ask them for further details about the proposal to build a tunnel in Penang. 

The prosecution’s Wan Shaharuddin quizzed if Guan Eng had declared in the January 26, 2011 exco meeting that he had already met with Zarul to discuss the Penang project before passing the phone numbers.

In response, Hock Seng said the exco meeting minutes on that day had recorded Guan Eng as informing the Penang exco that a private company wishes to explore the building of a tunnel in Penang.

When Wan Shaharuddin repeated his question, Hock Seng again repeated his answer, while also saying that Guan Eng did not say he had met with the company officials.

Wan Shaharuddin: Did Lim Guan Eng declare officially that he had discussed with Zarul in Hotel Shangri-La, Kuala Lumpur in January 2011 about this project?

Hock Seng: No.\

Wan Shaharuddin: Did Lim Guan Eng declare officially during the exco meeting that he had discussed with Datuk Zarul in early March 2011 about this project?

Hock Seng: He did not declare that he had met them, but it is already explained that the proposal for this project was raised in the exco meeting.

Hock Seng went on to confirm that the Zarul whose phone number was given by Guan Eng was the same Zarul whose company won the bid for the project after a request for proposal exercise.

Among other things, Hock Seng later agreed that it was common for state exco members to receive proposals and views from the public on improvements that could be carried out on matters under their portfolio such as traffic congestion, and to meet or be met by those with suggestions and to be given phone numbers of those with proposals.

Hock Seng agreed with Gobind that it would be a usual matter for him as an exco member to have delegated the work to his officer to contact those who have proposals to give, and also agreed with Gobind that this was the same situation when Guan Eng as the Penang chief minister received a suggestion and instructed Hock Seng to look into the proposal. 

Gobind: This is mentioned as ‘instruction, but there is nothing sinister when we say that word.

Hock Seng: Yes.

Among other things, Hock Seng also said the undersea tunnel project has not been done before in Asia except in China, and that Penang itself has never been involved in such a big project before and agreed that it was wise for the state government to consult companies that were capable of such a big project.

Agreeing with Gobind that seeking such external consultation would protect the state’s interests and ensure no mistakes are made, Hock Seng said BUCG is a famous company in China that has carried out mega projects such as the building of the Beijing National Stadium otherwise known as the “Bird’s Nest” for the 2008 Olympics.

Hock Seng suggested that such a company’s proposal would be given more weight if it is a well-known company capable of doing mega projects, and that it could be trusted to give its views and input.

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