KUALA LUMPUR: A key witness in the corruption trial involving Lim Guan Eng on the Penang undersea tunnel project told the Sessions Court that he lied to the media in 2018 that the project was “done above board” and that it involved no corruption.
During cross-examination by Lim’s counsel Gobind Singh Deo yesterday, Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli admitted that the false media statement was made after Lim instructed him to “tell the truth” and he did it to protect his dealings with the former chief minister in the planned RM6.3bil project.
Zarul Ahmad, who is Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZC) senior executive director, said he made up the story in a media interview in July 2018 about being pressured by individuals linked to the former Barisan Nasional government.
On July 2 that year, several news portals reported that Zarul Ahmad claimed he was pressured to the point of feeling as if “someone was putting a gun” to his head to pay RM22mil to stop the MACC from investigating the undersea tunnel project.
Zarul Ahmad had been remanded by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for 11 days in January the same year.
Gobind’s questions yesterday 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 dealing 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 investigations 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.
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 filed a request under Section 51 of the Criminal Procedure Code for the prosecution to provide a copy of the leaked statement to the court to determine its authenticity.
Deputy public prosecutor Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said they would respond to the defence’s request for the statement.
The hearing before judge Azura Alwi continues today.
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.