'Chocolate' and 'big boss' were code words used to describe money and Guan Eng, court told

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng used an intermediary to deliver money to him to avoid detection, the Sessions Court heard on Friday (June 24).

Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli, a key witness in Lim's corruption trial in the Penang undersea tunnel project, said that Lim told him to use a middleman.

Zarul Ahmad, while reading his witness statement, said this was to prevent his involvement in payments and to avoid any Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) surveillance.

The 23rd prosecution witness said that businessman G. Gnanaraja, whom he got to know through Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, was then brought into the picture. Gnanaraja was also a close ally of then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

"I suggested Gnanaraja as he was 'untouchable' (kekebalan) because he knew the prime minister (Najib).

"Lim also agreed. Then I contacted Gnanaraja and told him that I wanted him to be the intermediary to make payments to Lim," he said.

Zarul Ahmad said he had several meetings with Gnanaraja between May and August 2017.

He said he was worried about having and keeping too much cash as he was being watched by the MACC.

"The money I wanted to give to Lim was part of the 10% cut from the profit of the project that would be awarded to Zarul Ahmad's company. The project was estimated at RM30mil."

Zarul Ahmad said that in mid-August 2017, he contacted Gnanaraja multiple times as he wanted to give RM2mil to Lim.

He said he made preparations to withdraw the money on Aug 17, 2017, and messaged Gnanaraja to ask him to meet the next day to pass some 'chocolate' to the 'big boss'.

"Chocolate meant money," he said, adding that he also told Lim that the money would be ready for him.

On Aug 18, Zarul Ahmad said he met Gnanaraja at Eastin Hotel in Petaling Jaya and left two sports bags containing RM1mil each in his car boot.

Then on Aug 20, Zarul Ahmad introduced Gnanaraja to Lim after picking him up from the Wenworth Hotel in Pudu.

As Zarul Ahmad was driving towards Publika Hartamas, Gnanaraja, who sat at the back with Lim, presented a bag to Lim.

Then on Aug 28, Zarul Ahmad said he picked Lim up and went to Gnanaraja's house in Seksyen 5, Petaling Jaya at about 2am.

When Lim wanted to leave at about 5am, Gnanaraja took out another bag of money from his boot and gave it to him.

"Lim asked for RM2mil because he expected the general election to be soon.

"If I did not give him the money, I was worried if it would affect my project," he said.

Zarul Ahmad said he gave RM3.3mil in total to Lim on the condition that his company was awarded the undersea tunnel and paired roads project, and Lim would continue to help ensure he got to execute the project and be paid quicker when claims were approved.

"All these were part of the promised 10% cut from the profit of the project. If the project was not awarded to me, certainly I won't give this money," he added.

Zarul Ahmad noted that he chose to cooperate with the MACC because he found out from the MACC that Lim was only using him.

Speaking after the proceedings, Lim's lawyer Gobind Singh Deo said the defence would begin cross-examination at the next session.

The trial resumes Monday (June 27) before Judge Azura Alwi.

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