Conflict of interest raised

KUALA LUMPUR: There appeared to be a conflict of interest when the representatives of contractor Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) sat in meetings with Penang government officials in relation to the paired roads and undersea tunnel project before it was opened for tender, the Sessions Court heard.

A senior government official agreed that it was improper for the company to sit in meetings with state government officials in the preparation of documents pertaining to the project before the tender process started.

Azrai Zaini, 39, who was then an assistant director in the Penang State Economic Planning Unit (Upen) said that the draft of the documents contained specifications of the projects that would give BUCG an advantage over other companies that were interested to bid for the project.

“It wasn’t proper if they were going to join the request for proposal (RFP) process as bidders (later),” he said when questioned by deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin at the graft trial of former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng yesterday.

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.

He said the representatives of BUCG had three meetings with Penang state government officials, the last being in July 2011. The court heard that the tender for the project was opened a year later.

BUCG had signed two memorandums of understanding (MOUs) 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 MOU that was signed in Putrajaya in April 2011.

Cross-examined by defence counsel Gobind Singh Deo, Azrai however, agreed with the suggestion that there was no issue with the BUCG representatives being at the meetings as they were tied by the MOUs signed.

Azrai also agreed to a suggestion by Gobind that BUCG did not have an advantage since the bidding for the project only opened one year after the July 2011 meeting.

The hearing continues 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 accused of using his position as then Penang chief minister to corruptly receive RM3.3mil to help a company owned by then chairman of Consortium Zenith BUCG 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 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.

BUCG is a large-scale construction company from China which had 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.

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