Guan Eng a no-show at trial

KUALA LUMPUR: Lim Guan Eng who was a no-show for his corruption trial involving the Penang undersea tunnel project on Tuesday, should be more responsible when choosing dates to look into his health issues, said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin.

The prosecution was disappointed that the former Penang chief minister, despite knowing the hearing had been fixed for this week, still chose to get himself admitted.

“We sympathise with the accused and I wish him a speedy recovery.

“However, it is regrettable that according to a letter to the court, he saw a doctor on Dec 7 and chose Dec 12 for admission, which is a day before the hearing is scheduled to resume.

“I hope this will not happen again. And we don’t want to make it a big issue.

“He should be more responsible when fixing the dates for his health checkup and others,” he said at the Sessions Court here yesterday.

Wan Shaharuddin noted that it was not the first time that Lim was absent for his trial, as he had to be quarantined before this after coming into close contact with a Covid-19 case.

In response, Lim’s lead counsel Gobind Singh Deo apologised to the court and assured that the defence had wanted the case to go on.

Soon after the hearing began at the Sessions Court here yesterday, Gobind told the court that Lim had been admitted to the National Heart Institute (IJN) since Sunday and apologised for his absence.

“He’s at the IJN now after having a medical procedure last night (Monday).

“I was informed that he has been given a medical certificate for three days. He will be back to court on Thursday,” he said.

Gobind requested for the trial to proceed without Lim’s presence as the prosecution was calling several formal witnesses and the defence was ready to proceed.

Judge Azura Alwi said that while the court understood that health problems can be unpredictable, Lim should avoid clashing hearing dates when setting medical appointments.

She then invoked Section 264 of the Criminal Procedural Code that allows for the dispensing of an accused presence for the trial yesterday and today.

This means the trial will go on without Lim’s presence until he returns tomorrow.

The court heard three prosecution witnesses yesterday, who read out their witness statements.

The 19th witness, Datuk Ng Wee Kok, 66, who is Lim’s former principal private secretary and Penang state exco secretary, confirmed several state exco meeting minutes on the discussion related to an undersea tunnel project and related road projects between Jan 26, 2011, and May 10, 2012.

He said that all members who attended the meetings did not raise any questions or suggestions on the projects.

The minutes were undersigned by Lim before they were later approved by then Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas.

Ng, who served the Penang state government between 2008 and 2013, however noted that he was not aware of the content of the papers during the meetings as he did not prepare the documents.

“As a state exco secretary, I did not prepare the papers during the meetings, but merely collected, acknowledged and sorted them for distribution,” he said.

The papers, he added, were prepared by the relevant officers from each department or agency.

“My clerk collects the papers from these officers for me to acknowledge before they are sorted and given to the exco members two days before the weekly state exco meetings on Wednesdays so that they can be prepared for the meeting.

“So I have zero idea about these project papers because I did not prepare them,” he said.

The 17th and 18th witnesses – S. Vijayalakchimi, 44, and M. Maheswari, 46, who are also former Penang state exco secretaries – confirmed recording several meeting minutes and doing everything in order.

Lim, 60, is facing four corruption charges involving the proposed construction of an undersea tunnel and paired road projects in Penang.

For the first amended charge, he is charged with using his position as then Penang chief minister to corruptly receive RM3.3mil to help Zarul Ahmad’s company secure the project 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 appoint the company 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 is also charged with two counts of causing two lots of land worth RM208.8mil owned by the Penang state government 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.

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