Big difference in land valuation

KUALA LUMPUR: Two plots of state land given to the developer of the Penang undersea tunnel project were valued at RM300mil by a private valuer, a stark difference from the RM80mil value placed on them by two government officers, the Sessions Court heard.

Private land valuer Tan Gaik Eng, 71, a director of GE Tan Valuers Sdn Bhd, said his company was hired by Ewein Bhd, founded by developer Datuk Ewe Swee Kheng, to put a price tag on both properties.

Ewe, who was supposed to have been the 15th prosecution witness in the Lim Guan Eng corruption trial, died after a fall from a luxury condominium in Jalan Kelawei, Penang, on Oct 5 last year.

Tan said for Lot 702, his company received a call in June 2013 from Ewein Land Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Ewein Bhd.

“They asked us to value the plot,” he said, adding that he priced it at RM135mil based on various “comparables”.

As for Lot 713, Tan said he got a call from Ewein Bhd to do the same in June 2015 and it was valued at RM165mil.

Ewein Land was appointed by Consortium Zenith Beijing Urban Construction Group Sdn Bhd as developer of the land.

The two plots were meant as a swap with Ewein Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd (Lot 702) and Zenith Urban Development Sdn Bhd (Lot 713) for mixed development projects.

In May, Penang Valuation and Property Services Department valuers Zakariya Nayan and Nurul Asshima Aminullah testified that they had valued Lot 702 at RM50mil and Lot 713 at RM30mil, saying there was no coercion or external interference.

Zakariya and Nurul Asshima said they conducted the valuation of Lot 702 in December 2014 and Lot 713 in November 2016, after receiving applications from the Penang Lands and Mines Office.

They testified that they evaluated the land independently based on the market value at that time.

Cross-examined by Lim’s counsel Gobind Singh Deo, Tan said he was unaware of another valuation report by state-appointed valuers.

Gobind: Earlier, you said you were unaware that there were valuation reports by the state for Lot 702 and Lot 713. Does that mean you were unaware that both properties were valued at RM80mil combined by the state Valuation and Property Services Department?

Tan: I’m not aware.

Gobind then reserved his cross-examination of the witness.

Another witness, Penang Lands and Mines Office official Norfadilah Kassim testified that she handled the transfer process of both plots to Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd between December 2016 and March 2017.

She said both were freehold plots.

Earlier, the defence’s cross-examination of key witness Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli was postponed as he was unwell.

Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said the Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZC) senior executive director contacted him in the morning and said he had been given four days of medical leave until Friday.

Lim, 62, is facing four corruption charges involving the proposed construction of an undersea tunnel and paired roads project in Penang.

For the first amended charge, Lim is accused of 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 between January 2011 and August 2017 at the Chief Minister’s Office.

For the second amended charge, Lim is accused of soliciting 10% profit from Zarul Ahmad near The Gardens Hotel, Lingkaran Syed Putra at Mid Valley City to help the company get appointed for the same project in March 2011.

Lim is also charged with two counts of causing two lots of Penang government land worth RM208.8mil to be disposed of by the developer linked to the undersea tunnel project on Feb 17, 2015 and March 22, 2017 at the Penang Lands and Mines Office in Komtar.

The trial before judge Azura Alwi will resume on Sept 29, with forensic experts to be called to determine if a mobile phone which contained a WhatsApp exchange between Zarul Ahmad and businessman G. Gnanaraja could be switched on.

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