Guan Eng promised to give us tunnel project, witness tells court

(FMT) – Lim Guan Eng had promised to give the RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel project to a consortium via direct negotiation before making a U-turn and calling for an open tender, the sessions court here was told.

Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd director Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli said Lim had made the promise in March 2011.

However, the key prosecution witness in the former chief minister’s corruption trial said he was left disappointed by the U-turn.

“I was told in June (that year) that the tunnel project will be done through an open tender.

“YB promised me that he would ‘assist’ my company to get the project and had instructed his officers to cooperate with me.

“He requested the preparation of RFP (request for proposal) papers to be sped up and asked us to assist the state government officials and (former exco man) YB Lim Hock Seng over the matter,” he said.

Zarul added that he later told Hock Seng that the consortium is working hard to bid for the project, and that the company was willing to provide assistance in drafting the papers.

“YB Hock Seng told me that YB Lim asked him to assist us. His words gave me confidence that this project would be given through direct negotiation,” he said.

Zarul told the court that Hock Seng informed him about a plan to ink a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the state government and BUCG.

“In return, I told YB Hock Seng that I would plan for another MoU to be signed at the federal government level, between Malaysia and China,” he said.

The court previously heard that two MoUs were inked between Penang and BUCG on March 17, 2011 and April 28, 2011 for the tunnel project.

“Despite the change in tendering process from direct nego to open tender, BUCG ultimately won the bidding process.

“I was indebted to YB Lim and Hock Seng for assisting my company to make early preparation so we were more prepared to compete with other companies,” Zarul said.

A total of nine companies, including Consortium Zenith BUCG, took part in the open tender process. Consortium Zenith BUCG was given the highest score of 93.

Tunnel’s feasibility study yet to be done, says exco

Earlier today, Penang executive councilor Zairil Khir Johari, in charge of transport and infrastructure, was called to the witness stand.

He told the court that the feasibility studies on the proposed 7.2km tunnel have not been completed and the state government has not paid Consortium Zenith BUCG for it.

Deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin then asked Zairil about two new agreements between the state government and Consortium Zenith BUCG.

Wan Shaharuddin: Was Datuk Norazmi Mohd Narawi (the state legal adviser) the person who prepared the master and supplementary agreements? It did not involve private lawyers?

Zairil: Yes

However, under cross-examination by lawyer Gobind Singh Deo on whether the state government could engage the services of private lawyers on preparing the new agreements, Zairil answered in the affirmative.

“It is up to the state authorities to decide,” Zairil said.

Previously, former Penang legal adviser Faiza Zulkifli told the court that she was not consulted on the drafting of a contract between the state government and Consortium Zenith BUCG for the tunnel project.

She said Lim, who was then chief minister, had appointed the law firm of Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill to draft and execute the contract.

“I abided by the chief minister’s decision to appoint private lawyers in this matter.”

The hearing continues before judge Azura Alwi on March 24, 2022.

Lim is standing trial on charges of using his position to ask Zarul for a 10% cut of the profits from the undersea tunnel project, and accepting RM3.3 million in kickbacks from the businessman.

He is also accused of two counts of dishonestly misappropriating RM208.7 million worth of state land to two companies.