KUALA LUMPUR: A Swiss luxury watch was presented to former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng as a birthday gift to ensure that the Penang undersea tunnel project would go on smoothly, the Sessions Court heard.
Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli, who is a key witness in the project’s graft trial involving Lim, said he had in December 2015, prepared an envelope filled with RM100,000 cash and a Maurice Lacroix watch to be given to Lim in conjunction with his birthday.
“He never asked for the watch but I gave it to ensure that the project’s progress would be smooth with the Penang state government,” he said in reading his witness statement yesterday.
“I gave him the envelope and the box (containing the watch) but he returned the envelope, only accepting the watch.
“He seemed happy after receiving the watch,” he said.
Watch broker, K. Rajen Gunaretnam, had testified in September last year that he sold a Maurice Lacroix watch to Zarul Ahmad for RM40,000 sometime in 2015 or 2016.
Zarul Ahmad said he did not feel anything when Lim returned the envelope containing the RM100,000 as there was still “a long way to go” for the project.
He said he had given RM100,000 in cash in an envelope to Lim in conjunction with his birthday a year earlier, which Lim had accepted then.
He testified that in January 2016 before the Chinese New Year celebration, he had given Lim another RM500,000 in a haversack followed by another RM500,000 in another haversack between April and May of that year.In his testimony, Zarul Ahmad said he gave Lim a total of RM200,000 between 2013 and 2014.
He said he had given Lim the money as part of the 10% cut of the profits from the estimated RM30mil project that would be awarded to Zarul Ahmad’s company.
Under examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor Farah Yasmin Salleh, Zarul Ahmad said he put RM100 notes in the envelope and a mixture of RM50 and RM100 notes in the haversacks.
Lim, he said, had told him to use an intermediary to deliver money to him to avoid detection.
“This is so that I don’t get involved in the payment and save the worries of me coming under the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission’s surveillance,” said Zarul Ahmad.
The 23rd prosecution witness said 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 Tun Razak.
“I suggested Gnanaraja because of his invincibility (kekebalan) knowing the prime minister at that time.
“Lim also agreed. Then, I contacted Gnanaraja and told him that I wished to make him an intermediary to make payments to Lim,” he said.
Zarul Ahmad said between May and August 2017, he asked Gnanaraja to meet, adding that he was worried about holding too much cash as the MACC was watching him.
He said in mid-August 2017, he contacted Gnanaraja multiple times as he wanted to give RM2mil to Lim.
Zarul Ahmad said he made preparations to withdraw the money on Aug 17, 2017, and messaged Gnanaraja to meet him the next day to pass some “chocolate” to the “big boss”.
“Chocolate means money,” he said, adding that he also told Lim that the money would be ready for him.
Zarul Ahmad said on Aug 18, he met Gnanaraja at the Eastin Hotel in Petaling Jaya and left two black sports bags containing RM1mil each in his car boot.
He said on Aug 20, he introduced Gnanaraja to Lim after picking Lim up from the Wenworth Hotel in Pudu, and that as he was driving towards Publika, Gnanaraja, who sat at the back with Lim, took a selfie with the ex-chief minister before presenting a bag to him.
The remaining RM1mil, said Zarul Ahmad, was given to Lim at Gnanaraja’s house in Seksyen 5, Petaling Jaya, in the wee hours of Aug 28, adding that Gnanaraja took out a bag of money from his car boot and gave it to Lim at about 5am.
Zarul Ahmad said Lim had asked for RM2mil because the politician expected the general election to be soon.
“If I did not give him the money, I was worried it would affect my project,” he said.
Zarul Ahmad said he gave RM3.3mil in total to Lim on condition that his company was awarded the undersea tunnel and paired roads project, and that Lim would continue to help ensure that he would get to execute the project and be paid quicker when claims were approved.
“All these were part of the promised 10% cut from the profits of the project. If the project was not awarded to me, certainly, I won’t give this money,” he said.
Zarul Ahmad said 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 its cross-examination to challenge Zarul Ahmad’s testimony at the next session.
The trial resumes on Monday before Judge Azura Alwi.
Lim, 62, faces four corruption charges involving the proposed construction of an undersea tunnel and paired roads project in Penang.
For the first amended charge, Lim is charged with using his position as then Penang chief minister to corruptly receive RM3.3mil to help businessman Zarul Ahmad’s company secure the project, worth RM6,341,383,702 between January 2011 and August 2017 at the Penang Chief Minister’s Office.
For the second amended charge, Lim is accused of soliciting a 10% profit from Zarul Ahmad to help the company get appointed for the same project in March 2011 near The Gardens Hotel, Lingkaran Syed Putra at Mid Valley City.
Lim is also charged with two counts of causing two lots of land worth RM208.8mil owned by the Penang government to be disposed of by the developer linked to the undersea tunnel project on Feb 17, 2015, and March 22, 2017, at the Penang Land and Mines Office in Komtar.