State spending under spotlight

KUALA LUMPUR: Curveball questions from the prosecution in Lim Guan Eng’s corruption trial seemed to throw the defence off-guard as the hearing entered its fourth day.

Deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin posed the questions as the case’s third witness, Datuk Lim Hock Seng, read from his witness statement.

One of the questions pertained to a multimillion ringgit project on a plot of land, known as Lot 702, which was developed by a third party known as Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd after the land was given in exchange for completing a feasibility study for the Penang undersea tunnel project.

Wan Shaharuddin first asked Hock Seng, who is a former Penang state executive councillor if he knew who owned the company.

“To my knowledge, I know it is owned by a Datuk. I don’t know his full name nor am I aware of the spelling,” he said yesterday.

Wan Shaharuddin then asked if Hock Seng had heard of the City of Dreams development on that plot of land and Hock Seng replied he was aware of the development.

He then asked Hock Seng if he knew whether the project followed the density requirement to which Hock Seng replied he did not know.

Ewein Zenith is a joint venture vehicle between Ewein Land Sdn Bhd and Consortium Zenith Beijing Urban Construction Group Sdn Bhd (CZBUCG).

CZBUCG was renamed Consortium Zenith Construction (CZC) in 2018.

Ewein Zenith is headed by Datuk Ewe Swee Kheng and the company’s luxurious City of Dreams freehold development, measuring 3.67 acres (1.49ha) is opposite Penang’s famed Gurney Drive.

Wan Shaharuddin also asked Hock Seng why the state government decided to spend RM75,000 to get another law firm to draw up an agreement titled “Preliminary Agreement for the Privatisation of the Major Roads and Tunnel Projects in Pulau Pinang”, when he had earlier stated that the project should not cost the state government anything.

Wan Shaharuddin: If the state legal adviser was involved, wouldn’t the state have saved RM75,000?

Hock Seng: Yes, but it would have taken a longer time to complete.

Hock Seng added that the state legal adviser was not involved in drafting the project’s preliminary agreement as the state government wanted it completed as soon as possible.

The questions seemed to rile Guan Eng’s defence lawyer, Gobind Singh Deo who asked about their relevance to the case.

“What is the relevance of the City of Dreams? And then asked about the RM75,000... I need to know exactly what they are charging my client with so we can prepare our defence. What are the particulars of this charge?” he asked.

However, the prosecution team stood by its questions saying that while it covered a lot of ground, it was within the four walls of the charges against Guan Eng.

Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi then told Gobind to hand in case authorities on his objections before fixing Aug 16 to 20 for the trial to continue.

This was Hock Seng’s third day on the witness stand reading from his witness statement, which contained matters discussed at state exco meetings dating back to around 2011 including decisions surrounding the undersea tunnel project.

He is expected to continue reading his witness statement when the trial continues on Aug 16 as the prosecution said there was a little bit more to go.

Guan Eng, 60, is facing four corruption charges involving the construction of an undersea tunnel and paired roads project in Penang.

For the first amended charge, the Bagan MP is charged with using his position as then Penang chief minister to corruptly receive RM3.3mil to help a company owned by Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli to secure the undersea tunnel and paired roads project in Penang worth RM6,341,383,702.

The offence was allegedly committed between January 2011 and August 2017 at the Penang chief minister’s office.

For the second amended charge, Guan Eng is charged with soliciting 10% of profits from Zarul to help the company be appointed for the same project.

Guan Eng was charged with committing the offence near The Gardens Hotel, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City here in March 2011, between 12.30am and 2am.

The former finance minister was also charged with two counts of causing two lots of land owned by the Penang state government worth RM208.8mil to be disposed of by the developer linked to the undersea tunnel project.

The offences were allegedly committed at the Penang Land and Mines Office, Komtar on Feb 17, 2015, and March 22, 2017.

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