Chocs for the big boss: RM2mil not meant for Guan Eng but for a former premier, graft trial hears

KUALA LUMPUR: An RM2mil bribe codenamed “chocolate” was meant for a “big boss” who was not Lim Guan Eng, the Sessions Court here heard.

As the former Penang chief minister's corruption trial involving the Penang undersea tunnel project resumed, Lim's lead counsel Gobind Singh Deo adduced that the "chocolate" was actually meant for the prime minister at that time.

He said this on Wednesday (Jan 18) during cross-examination of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Forensics Department investigating officer Wan Mohd Firdaus Wan Yusof.

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The investigating officer, the eight prosecution witness, came to court with a copy of a forensics report containing message threads between Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZCSB) director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli and businessman G. Gnanaraja that had been produced in a separate trial in Shah Alam.

He was ordered on Tuesday (Jan 17) to come with the report, which he prepared for his own reference during the cross-examination on Wednesday.

Gobind was earlier told to submit an official application for the report, which is from a different case, to be produced in court.

However, Gobind argued that the defence already had a court order from Sept 29 for the MACC officer to provide all necessary documents.

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He said the defence only had part of the entire report that contained messages between the two businessmen on Aug 18, 2017.

He said the Shah Alam case affidavit contained messages with information that could exonerate his client.

"If we look at the conversation, the 'chocolate' was for another party, not Lim Guan Eng," he said.

During cross-examination, Wan Mohd Firdaus confirmed that the full report contained messages on Aug 17 and 18, 2017, as well as other dates.

He also agreed with Gobind that the conversation on Aug 17, indicated that Zarul Ahmad had plans to meet with Gnanaraja the next day as he wrote: "firstly I miss u and secondly to pass you the 'chocolate' for 'big boss'."

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Noting a reference to the "big boss" and its relevance to the case, Gobind asked Wan Mohd Firdaus to confirm an earlier message exchange on July 23, 2017.

He said Gnanaraja had texted Zarul Ahmad that morning, saying he "had a good birthday cutting cake yesterday with big boss", to which Zarul Ahmad replied, "Wow, fantastic."

"He also told Zarul Ahmad that he would be in touch again as he was 'leaving Taman Duta'."

While Wan Mohd Firdaus confirmed that the messages were there, Gobind asked if he knew whose birthday it was.

When Wan Mohd Firdaus said he did not, Gobind said it was of a former prime minister.

He also said his client was not born on July 23, and he does not stay in Taman Duta.

Referring to another message exchange from July 24, 2017, Gobind said Gnanaraja texted Zarul Ahmad and said the "big boss" was very concerned about his "delivery" the next day, which Wan Mohd Firdaus confirmed.

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He also confirmed Zarul Ahmad's reply, saying: "Why should I cheat the prime minister? Where can I hide?", to which Gnanaraja told him "not to worry" and that everything was "under control".

On the morning of July 27, the report indicated, Gnanaraja told Zarul Ahmad in a text message "to work on the letter to big boss" to which the latter replied the next evening that he "got the letter to PM ready".

Wan Mohd Firdaus: Yes (the messages were there in the forensic report).

Gobind: Big boss, prime minister. Are you able to say or not?

Wan Mohd Firdaus: No.

Stressing that the forensics report was relevant to the trial, Gobind said the prosecution's reluctance to supply the report previously was an attempt to suppress evidence, and claimed the charges against Lim were "trumped up."

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Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib objected, saying it was only proper to ask Zarul Ahmad about his conversations instead.

DPP Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin also objected, urging the court not to record the "statement from the Bar".

He also said Gobind's request involved applying under Section 51 of the Criminal Procedure Code for the forensics report from another case to be produced in this trial.

During re-examination, Wan Mohd Firdaus said the term "chocolate" first appeared in the report on Aug 17, 2017.

Wan Shaharuddin: Did the report state that no money was paid to Lim Guan Eng?

Wan Mohd Firdaus: No.

Wan Shaharuddin: Did the report say that the money was paid to someone else?

Wan Mohd Firdaus: No.

Wan Shaharuddin: Was there indicated in the report that the RM2mil "chocolate" was not paid to Lim Guan Eng?

Wan Mohd Firdaus: No.

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Gobind then objected, saying it was not fair for Wan Shaharuddin to ask the witness what was not in the report as only they had copies, and not him.

He also said the defence would file an application to "put in" the forensics report as evidence.

Judge Azura Alwi then instructed the defence to file its formal application and fixed Feb 15 for a hearing when the trial resumes.

Lim, 62, is facing an amended charge of using his position as Penang chief minister to solicit RM3.3mil in bribes as an inducement to assist Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd owner, Zarul Ahmad, to secure the project worth RM6,341,383,702.

Lim allegedly committed the offence at the Penang Chief Minister's Office, Level 28, Komtar, George Town, between January 2011 and August 2017.

In the second amended charge, Lim is accused of soliciting a bribe of 10% of the profit from the company as gratification to secure the project.

The offence was allegedly committed near The Gardens Hotel, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City here in March 2011.

Lim faces another two charges of causing two plots of land worth RM208.8mil, belonging to the Penang government, to be disposed of to two companies linked to the undersea tunnel project.

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