Guan Eng’s corruption trial begins as secret meetings, delayed investigations among first-day revelations

(MMO) – Former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng visited businessman Datuk G. Gnanaraja at his home in Petaling Jaya for an impromptu meeting in the wee-hours of the morning back in 2017, together with Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli, the person he is alleged to have solicited a bribe from, the Sessions Court was told here today.

The first prosecution witness of Lim’s corruption trial, 35-year old actress and businesswoman G. Geethanjali, testified how she and her mother were woken up from their sleep by her husband G. Gnanaraja that August night at around 2am, to welcome Lim.

Geethanjali revealed to the court how the visit that night was Lim’s second visit to her home and that he was accompanied by Zarul that night.

She said, when reading out her witness statement, that Zarul was someone familiar to her with after having met him during several business meetings between him and her husband Gnanaraja.

Geethanjali, as part of her testimony, also confirmed photographs tendered as evidence which showed her, her mother, and Gnanaraja during that 2017 meeting were snapped by Zarul using his smartphone which she said was done in a candid manner.

“After taking the photographs, about 30 minutes later, my husband asked me and my mother to leave because he needs to discuss certain confidential matters with Lim Guan Eng and Datuk Zarul.

“I was only following my husband’s instructions where I and my mother then left and returned to our rooms and went back to sleep.

“I can confirm that after that, I did not find out any information that was discussed between my husband and Lim Guan Eng that night and I confirm that my husband did not share any information related to the conversation he had with Lim Guan Eng,” she testified.

Geethanjali also told the court how she was not aware of any particular invitation given to Lim to visit her home that night.

“I did not invite Lim Guan Eng to come to my house and I am not a supporter or a fan of Lim Guan Eng,” she said adding that photographs produced in the court of her together with Lim were taken only for memory’s sake.

Tempers did flare for a brief moment in the trial during the prosecution’s examination in chief, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, when he made Geethanjali confirm whether or not those seen in the mentioned photographs of Lim’s visit were using socks.

Wan Shaharuddin’s line of questioning then triggered an objection from Lim’s lead counsel, Gobind Singh, who questioned the motive, relation, and the need for the observation of whether socks were being worn by those in the photos.

Geethanjali was shown and made to confirm if those pictured were using socks for three separate photographs before Gobind’s interjection.

Wan Shaharuddin (directed at the witness): Now in this photo, can you tell the court if Lim Guan Eng and your mother in this photograph, are they using socks?

Gobind: Your Honour, I am sorry but I would like to state for record’s sake that I am objecting to this. What is the connection between these photographs and the charges? Why is he asking about whether someone is using socks or not?

Wan Shaharuddin: Your Honour, my learned friend has stated his intention to object, but he has not stated under what Section. Maybe he can be a little patient to wait and see the intentions behind this.

Gobind: Under the Evidence Act! Your Honour, even first-year legal students will know that the questions have got to be related to the case. The DPP doesn’t know about basic laws. If you need me to school you just tell me.

To this Sessions Court Judge Azura Alwi then interjected and denied the objection, but at the same time asked Wan Shaharuddin to cut to the chase.

The second witness called in today was Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) digital forensic investigator Saadon Abd Samad, who verified extracting the implicated photographs tendered earlier from a Sony Xperia smartphone.

The smartphone’s owner however was not mentioned in court, but is believed to belong to either Gnanaraja or Zarul.

Saadon testified that he was requested by an Investigating Officer in March this year to extract information from the smartphone, which included 10 photographs, some of which were shown to Geethanjali earlier.

Then during cross-examination, Gobind then questioned Saadon why he was asked to conduct an analysis on the device only in March when the charges were framed against Lim in August, 2020.

Gobind: You conducted the analysis in 2021?

Saadon: Yes.

Gobind: And you received this exhibit on March 18, 2021?

Saadon: Yes.

Gobind: Do you know the accused was charged in August last year.

Saadon: I am not sure.

Gobind: So according to the timeline, the accused was charged and the forensic analysis done only after that to verify the facts?

Saadon: Yes.

Gobind: Normally we check and investigate first, and then decide to charge or not, you agree?

Saadon: Yes.

Gobind: But why was this case different, where we charge first and then only do the forensic analysis?

Saadon: That is outside my jurisdiction.

Gobind: You said you were formerly an Investigating Officer. Normally you would have to investigate first and then charge correct?

Saadon: Yes.

Gobind: So you agree that in this case it was not conducted like that?

Saadon: Yes.

Lim was charged with one count of soliciting a bribe and one count of abusing his power to obtain gratifications in exchange for awarding projects related to the Penang undersea tunnel project to Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd.

The former Penang chief minister and federal minister of finance is alleged to have solicited a kickback amounting to 10 per cent of the profits raked by Consortium Zenith later valued at RM3.3 million as inducement from the company’s director to help them secure the RM6.3 billion project.

He was also charged with two counts of dishonest misappropriation of property on two plots of land belonging to the Penang government worth RM208.8 million to be disposed of to two companies, which are linked to the state’s undersea tunnel project.