BUCG had advantage in undersea tunnel project, court told

KUALA LUMPUR: Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) could have had an advantage over other companies when it came to bidding at the open tender of the paired roads and undersea tunnel project, the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court heard on Friday (Aug 20).

A senior government official agreed that it was "not proper" for the company to sit in meetings with state government officials in the preparation of documents pertaining to the project before the tender for it was opened.

Azrai Zaini, 39, who was then an assistant director in the Penang State Economic Planning Unit, said that the draft of the documents contained specifications of the projects that would allow it to know earlier compared to other companies that were interested to bid for the project.

He believed there was a conflict of interest when the company had meetings with state government officials.

To a question from deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin during former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng's graft trial, Azrai agreed that it did not seem proper if BUCG was going to join the request for proposal (RFP) process as bidders subsequently.

Azrai said that he was only a junior officer who was inexperienced at the time, and did not think that he had to inform his immediate boss about this.

Azrai is currently the principal private secretary to Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

BUCG is a large-scale construction company from China which joined Consortium Zenith BUCG that won the tender for the Penang Undersea Tunnel project in 2013. It pulled out in 2017 and the corporation was then renamed Consortium Zenith Construction.

Representatives of BUCG had three meetings with Penang State government officials, the last being in July 2011.

The tender for the project was opened a year later.

BUCG had signed two memorandum of understandings (MOU) with the Penang government in March and April of 2011.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao had witnessed the April 2011 MOU that was signed in Putrajaya.

When under cross examination by defence lawyer Gobind Singh, Azrai however agreed that there was no issue with the BUCG representatives being at the meetings as they were tied by the MOUs signed.

He also agreed that while BUCG could make suggestions on the project, they did not know what was happening, as their last meeting was one year before the bidding process.

He also agreed that BUCG did not have an advantage when it came to bidding for the project.

The trial will resume on Sept 10.

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 Zarul 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 the 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 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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