KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz was the one who had introduced a businessman, who turned out to be a key figure in Lim Guan Eng’s corruption trial, to the former Penang chief minister, the Sessions Court heard.
The Padang Rengas MP said a meeting took place between him, Lim and Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkefli at a hotel pub here in January 2011 where the introduction took place.
Nazri also conceded that Zarul Ahmad had given him RM500,000 to be donated to religious schools in southern Thailand and not for any project.
Testifying as the 14th witness in Lim’s trial, Nazri said he had known Zarul Ahmad as a personal friend since the 1990s and they had no business nor political dealings.
“Zarul mentioned that he wanted to know someone influential in Penang to help him get (a) project, but he did not say what project it was. I also can’t remember the date he told me that.
“I took the initiative to get in touch with Lim and asked if he was interested to meet Zarul regarding any project in Penang.
“He agreed and I fixed the meeting in January 2011 at the Shangri-La Hotel,” Nazri said when reading from his witness statement.
He added that the meeting had taken place at about 9pm at the hotel’s pub, and that Zarul Ahmad stayed for about an hour before leaving.
“I was still with Lim after Zarul left. Throughout their conversation, I cannot remember if Zarul had asked Lim to award any projects to his company,” he said, adding that they both left at about 11pm.
Nazri also said that another meeting between the three of them had taken place at an Italian restaurant sometime in March 2011, adding that he could not remember who called for the meeting and what was discussed.
When cross-examined by Lim’s counsel Gobind Singh Deo, Nazri said such introductions involving a businessman and a politician were “normal”.
When queried, he said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had taken his statement.
Gobind: Did they (MACC) ask whether you received any money from Datuk Zarul Ahmad for the introduction or the project?
Gobind: Did he (Zarul) give you any money?
Nazri: He did, and asked for it to be distributed to help religious schools and institutions in Pattani, southern Thailand.
Gobind: You received RM500,000 it was not for this case?
Nazri: Not for this case.
During a re-examination by deputy public prosecutor Wan Shahruddin Wan Ladin, Nazri stated that Zarul Ahmad had given him the money but it was to be used for charitable purposes.
“I am from Hulu Perak and there are many residents there who are descendants of the Pattani people.
“I have been helping the religious schools in Pattani for a long time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the widow of prominent developer Datuk Ewe Swee Kheng was also in court to testify over her husband’s death on Oct 5 as the 13th prosecution witness.
Datin Seet Chin Leng, 55, in replying to questions from DPP Francine Cheryl Rajendram, said that she last saw her husband at about 1am when he returned to their bed after going to the bathroom.
Ewe, who was supposed to be one of the prosecution witnesses in Lim’s trial, fell from his condominium’s balcony at Jalan Kelawei in Penang in the early morning of Oct 5.
When asked, Seet said she was aware that Ewe was called to give statements to the MACC but did not know the details as her late husband never discussed them with her.
MACC officer Asst Supt Mohd Nazri Mansor, the 15th prosecution witness, told the court that he had recorded Ewe’s statement four times on July 3, 8 and 9 last year and on Aug 14 this year, adding that Ewe had been cooperative.
“He was well treated throughout the process. He was never denied the permission to make calls and was even allowed to have his vegetarian food delivered to him when he was called to the MACC office.
“He also did not show any signs of stress after he left the MACC office each time,” he said.
The prosecution is trying to have Ewe’s recorded statement presented as evidence in the trial.
However, Gobind indicated that he would object to the application, adding that he would make submissions today.
Lim, 60, is facing four corruption charges involving the proposed construction of an undersea tunnel and paired roads project in Penang.
For the first amended charge, the Bagan MP, who is also a former finance minister, is charged with using his position as then Penang chief minister to corruptly receive RM3.3mil to help Zarul Ahmad’s company to secure the 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, Lim is accused of soliciting 10% of profits from Zarul Ahmad to help the company be appointed for the same project.
Lim is charged with committing the offence near The Gardens Hotel, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City here, in March 2011, between 12.30am and 2am.
Lim 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 in Komtar on Feb 17, 2015 and March 22, 2017.
The trial before Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi continues today.