Guan Eng graft trial: Witness changed stance after 11-day detention by MACC

KUALA LUMPUR: A key witness in the corruption trial involving Lim Guan Eng on the Penang undersea tunnel project testified in court that he changed his stance after his 11-day detention and investigation by the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in January 2018.

Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZC) senior executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli said that what he said in a media interview in July of the same year about being pressured by individuals linked to the then Barisan Nasional government was a lie.

During cross-examination by Lim’s counsel Gobind Singh Deo on Thursday (Aug 4), he admitted in the Sessions Court that the false media statement was made after Lim instructed him to “tell the truth” and he did it to protect his dealings with Lim.

On July 2 that year, several news portals reported that Zarul Ahmad claimed that he was pressured to the point of as if “someone was putting a gun” to his head to pay RM22mil to stop the MACC from investigating the undersea tunnel project.

Gobind’s questions were related to the July 2 news report that was published on Free Malaysia Today and Malaysiakini.

In his testimony, the 23rd prosecution witness said he had stated in the media interview that there were no elements of corruption in the undersea tunnel project and that everything was done “above board”.

Gobind: Your evidence or statement in newspaper reports that everything was done above board in procuring this contract is true, isn’t it?

Zarul Ahmad: Yes I said that.

Gobind: You also said Lim Guan Eng had done everything above board, no hanky panky. Was that your statement?

Zarul Ahmad: Yes.

Gobind: And it’s true, isn’t it? ... That’s your statement. Please answer.

Zarul Ahmad: True at the time, yes.

Gobind: What do you mean by that? Let’s break this down. You’re saying it’s true; you also say it was true at that time. So at that time and now there’s a difference. Why?

Zarul Ahmad: I made those statements because at the back of my mind I wanted to protect any dealings with Lim Guan Eng. Why should I be telling people... oh, actually I did it because... you know of course, certainly, I was ...

Gobind: Datuk Zarul, take your time and think about it very carefully. You were saying that it was true at that time. Are you now saying it was not true that actually things happened that you didn't tell us?

Zarul Ahmad: If there were no investigation by the MACC, I would not implicate Lim Guan Eng at all.

Gobind: You said in these articles that everything was done above board, no hanky panky. When you said it, it was true, correct?

Zarul Ahmad: Yes.

Gobind: And now you changed your story because the MACC investigated you, correct?

Zarul Ahmad: Yes.

Gobind: After you were arrested and remanded for 11 days?

Zarul Ahmad: Yes.

Gobind: Which means, you now say that during the press conference, you lied.

Zarul Ahmad then went on and admitted that he lied to the press, the Penang people and the state government then.

Gobind: I can establish today that you’re not only a convict but a person who’s prepared to lie.

Zarul Ahmad: I disagree. I have no chance to explain.

Gobind: You have just said it. And you’re prepared to lie when you were arrested by the MACC. That is your evidence, as of now, right?

Zarul Ahmad: Yes.

Zarul Ahmad had earlier in his witness statement admitted that he was once jailed for a day following a court case under the Banking and Financial Institution Act (Bafia Act) in 1994 when he was working for a banking and merchant company.

He also disputed the authenticity of his “leaked” witness statement to the MACC published on a political blogger’s website in February 2019.

He said he was not aware of the purported leak until he was questioned by the MACC.

“During questioning, I was shown the article with the statement.

“The statement did not have my signature and that of the (MACC) officer,” he said.

When asked to produce the statement, Zarul Ahmad said he did not have it.

Gobind then applied under Section 51 of the Criminal Procedure Code and requested the prosecution provide a copy of the leaked statement to the court to determine its genuineness.

Deputy public prosecutor Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said they would respond to the defence’s request for the statement on Friday (Aug 5).

The hearing before judge Azura Alwi continues on Friday.

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 10% profits 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.

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