KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 — A key prosecution witness told the Sessions Court today how he utilised an intermediary — namely businessman G. Gnanaraja — who was a close friend of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in carrying out cash exchanges totalling RM2 million in bribes to former chief minister Lim Guan Eng.
Testifying against Lim, Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZCSB) senior executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli said Gnanaraja was an individual introduced to him by former minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz whom the latter described as a close friend of Najib.
"Seeing that this was a recommendation from my good friend Datuk Seri Nazri, there was no reason for me to doubt Gnanaraja’s position with the prime minister.
"With that, I decided to involve Gnanaraja in my cash payments to Lim Guan Eng," he said.
Zarul Ahmad also recounted how Lim had once asked him to use a middleman if he wanted to give money to avoid being implicated in the payments.
"He (Lim) was worried I might be monitored by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
"I suggested Gnanaraja since he has immunity seeing that he is a known acquaintance of the prime minister at that time,” Zarul Ahmad said in his witness statement.
After obtaining Lim’s consent, Zarul Ahmad said he then got in touch with Gnanaraja and relayed his wish to use the businessman as an intermediary to make payments to Lim.
Between May to August 2017, a total of RM2 million were given to Gnanaraja for safekeeping during a meeting at Eastin Hotel Petaling Jaya, with Zarul Ahmad telling the court how terms such as ‘chocolate’ and ‘Bigboss’ were used to refer to the cash and Lim respectively.
According to Zarul Ahmad, Lim had asked for RM2 million as he was expecting a general election to be held soon.
"If I had not given the money, I was worried Lim Guan Eng would disrupt my project in the future. If he never asked for 10 per cent of the future profits I would never have given him the RM2 million,” he added.
In the first meeting with Lim, Zarul Ahmad said he went to Gnanaraja’s home in Seksyen 5, Petaling Jaya to pick up the bag containing the cash.
After arriving at Gnanaraja’s home, Zarul Ahmad said the former entered his vehicle with a similar bag that was previously handed over for safekeeping containing RM1 million in cash.
Zarul Ahmad then said he headed to Wenworth Hotel in Kuala Lumpur to introduce Gnanaraja to Lim, with the DAP leader later expressing excitement at being introduced to the businessman.
On the way to an event in Publika Shopping Gallery Lim was supposed to attend, Zarul Ahmad also said Lim and Gnanaraja both took a selfie in his car.
"Upon our arrival at Publika, YB Lim Guan Eng expressed thanks and tapped my shoulder as a gesture.
"Gnanaraja told me YB Lim had taken the bag because the bag was no longer there when I looked at the backseat,” he said.
Several days after the first RM1 million exchange, Zarul Ahmad said he then informed Gnanaraja to prepare the remaining RM1 million to be handed over to Lim for an impromptu meeting at Gnanaraja’s home.
Previously, prosecution witness and Gnanaraja’s wife, G. Geethanjali testified how she and her mother were woken from their sleep by her husband at around 2am, to welcome Lim and Zarul Ahmad.
As the trio was leaving the house after the wee-hours meeting, Zarul Ahmad said a bag containing the remaining RM1 million was handed over to Lim by Gnanaraja.
"After that YB Lim entered the car and sat at the backseat with the bag given by Gnanaraja. Then, I sent YB Lim back to his hotel at The Gardens Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
"Upon arriving at the lobby, YB Lim said his thanks and left the car with the bag in tow,” he said.
Gnanaraja has since been charged with cheating Zarul Ahmad and also had his Datukship revoked by the Pahang Palace in 2019.
He was accused of deceiving Zarul Ahmad into paying him RM19 million between July and August 2017 in exchange for using his connections to help settle an ongoing MACC probe into the company, which was the main contractor for the RM6.34 billion undersea tunnel project.
Lim is facing an amended charge of using his position as Penang chief minister to receive RM3.3 million in bribes to help Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd to obtain the undersea tunnel project.
On the second amended charge, Lim is accused of soliciting bribes amounting to 10 per cent of the profits of the company from Zarul Ahmad as gratification for getting the project.
Lim, who is also Bagan MP, is also faced with two charges of causing two plots of land, worth RM208.8 million, belonging to the Penang government to be disposed of to two companies, which are linked to the state’s undersea tunnel project.
The hearing before Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi resumes June 27.