There was a special investigation on Guan Eng by MACC, says key witness

KUALA LUMPUR: A "special investigation" was why the statements of a key prosecution witness in the ongoing corruption trial of Lim Guan Eng have been different in the Sessions Court and a previous case in Shah Alam.

Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZCSB) executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli said it when he was questioned by lead counsel Haijan Omar during an impeachment proceeding into his conflicting statements with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and in a previous Shah Alam case involving businessman G. Gnanaraja.

The witness said he did not mention Lim's name in his statement with the MACC into Gnanaraja's probe as an MACC officer told him that there was a "special investigation" of the former Penang chief minister.

Haijan: So your explanation of why you didn't tell the role of Gnanaraja with Lim Guan Eng in your statement here was because the MACC investigation officer didn't allow you to?

Zarul Ahmad: It's not that he didn't allow it. He told me there was another special investigation involved.

Haijan: You have been given a clear warning in court, to tell the truth. You should state all you know.

Zarul Ahmad: I already did but there was a special investigation. And the officer told me to focus on this (Shah Alam) case.

Zarul Ahmad confirmed that he had contacted Gnanaraja in July 2017 to talk about setting up a special purpose vehicle (SPV), Bumi Muhibbah Capital Holdings Sdn Bhd to channel bribe money to Lim.

Haijan: Do you agree that RM15mil was deposited into the account of Bumi Muhibbah for the payment to Gnanaraja to settle your case with the PM (Datuk Seri Najib Razak)?

Zarul Ahmad: Yes

Haijan: In July 2017 when the payment was made to Bumi Muhibbah, you said no payment was made to Gnanaraja meant for Lim Guan Eng.

Zarul Ahmad: Yes.

Haijan: So Bumi Muhibbah was not used as an SPV to pay a bribe to Lim Guan Eng.

Zarul Ahmad: Agree.

Haijan: The money was meant for the PM.

Zarul Ahmad: Yes.

Haijan: That's why the SPV was never used to pay anything to Lim Guan Eng.

Zarul Ahmad: I disagree.

Despite Gnanaraja's "middleman" role between him and Najib, Zarul Ahmad acknowledged that such a role was not stated between him and Lim in his statement with the MACC for the ongoing case.

He said payment to Lim was made only in cash, and not through any SPV.

Zarul Ahmad said he only realised he was cheated after the MACC began investigating Gnanaraja.

He said he found out the money deposited into Bumi Muhibbah was not used to pay Najib but for Gnanaraja’s own business.

In the 2019 Shah Alam case, Zarul Ahmad sued Gnanaraja for cheating him of RM19mil as an inducement to help him drop money laundering charges.

However, Gnanaraja pleaded guilty to an alternative charge under the Companies Act and was fined RM230,000, while the cheating case has since been classified as "no further action (NFA)".

When questioned by co-counsel RSN Rayer, Zarul Ahmad agreed that he mentioned to the MACC in 2018 that he gave RM2mil to Gnanaraja was to "keep it warm" with Najib as the general election was coming, and also to get future projects.

"It was Najib all along before Lim Guan Eng suddenly appeared," said Rayer.

Zarul Ahmad described it as the "continuity" of the events before he eventually agreed with Rayer.

He agreed with Haijan that he did not tell the MACC that another RM2mil was handed to Gnanaraja on Aug 18, 2017, and that he gave a total of RM4mil to the businessman.

However, he disagreed that Lim's involvement was an "afterthought" as his name was never mentioned in statements recorded during the investigation into Gnanaraja.

The hearing resumes May 2.

Lim, 63, is facing an amended charge of using his position as then-Penang chief minister to solicit RM3.3mil in bribes as an inducement to assist Zarul Ahmad in securing the undersea tunnel 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, who is DAP chairman and Bagan MP, faces two further 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 state’s undersea tunnel project.

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