KUALA LUMPUR: The prosecution in former Transport Minister Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik’s case has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Cabinet members were deceived over the purchase of a 404ha piece of land in Pulau Indah for the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project, the High Court heard.
Ling’s counsel Wong Kian Kheong said: “Adverse inference should also be drawn against the prosecution for failing to call the Cabinet members then, including former Prime Ministers Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and the current Premier Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
“We humbly submit that Dr Mahathir is a material witness in this case by virtue that he presided over the Cabinet.
“During the relevant Cabinet meetings (on the land purchase issue), Dr Mahathir held three positions – Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Special Functions Minister.”
Wong added that the Finance Minister was responsible for all financial matters, including those relating to the Port Klang Authority (PKA).
Submitting at the end of the prosecution’s case yesterday, Wong said all functions of the Transport Minister from Oct 20 to 23, and from Oct 31 to Dec 1, 2002, were exercised by former Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting under the Temporary Exercise of Ministerial Functions Order.
“Accordingly, by operation of law, Dr Ling did not exercise powers and duties as a Transport Minister when the Cabinet’s decision (to buy the land) was made on Nov 6, 2002.
“Ong was present in all the relevant Cabinet meetings and yet the prosecution did not call him to testify,” he said.
Wong also pointed out that since all the Cabinet’s decisions were made collectively, the prosecution was required to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the whole Cabinet had been deceived.
He added that from as early as Feb 21, 2001, the Cabinet had already been informed that the land cost, interest and development cost would total RM2.44bil, adding that there was no evidence that Dr Ling benefited in any manner from the sale.
“There was no intention on Dr Ling’s part to deceive the Cabinet as it was not important to him if it was done via acquisition or purchase.
“He was more concerned that the land be taken by the Government as soon as possible, as it had been pending since a 1999 Cabinet decision to purchase the land and he did not want Jebel Ali Free Zone International (Jafzi) to move to Thailand or Indonesia.
“Even if assuming that the Cabinet’s decision was induced by the alleged concealment or deception (which the defence denies), there is no offence of cheating because the Cabinet had given restrospective approval on the increase in the total cost of the PKFZ project from RM1.088bil to RM4.632bil during its meeting on June 27, 2007,” he said.
Wong added that the Valuation and Property Services Department’s valuation of RM25 psf, in its letter dated Sept 29, 2000, to the Transport Ministry did not include the total interest amount, as testified by its deputy director-general Datuk Mani Usilappan, who wrote the letter.
Its valuation had stated that the RM25 psf price consideration for the land could be used for the purpose of bond issuance when read together with the 10-year repayment period with an annual 6% interest and a 5% deposit.
Nett present value of the land had been fixed at RM21 psf.
Dr Ling has claimed trial to an amended principal charge of deceiving the Government by not revealing to the Cabinet an additional interest rate of 7.5% annually in the purchase of the land for the PKFZ project.
He faces two optional charges of cheating the Government by not revealing to the Cabinet facts pertaining to the interest rate, and deceiving it into believing that facts on the land, bought at RM25 psf and 7.5% interest, were certified and agreed to by the Valuation and Property Services Department when he knew there was no such consent.
Dr Ling is said to have committed the offences at the Prime Minister’s office in Putrajaya between Sept 25 and Nov 6, 2002.
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