News | Guan Eng corruption trial: Late businessman expressed concern for safety after confession allegedly implicated ex-CM’s involvement over corrupt practice in Penang undersea tunnel project

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — A late businessman told authorities he was slightly “worried” for his safety after making a confession that allegedly implicated former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng in corrupt practice over the RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel and paired roads project, the Sessions Court heard today.

The late Datuk Ewe Swee Kheng, who was also Ewein Bhd founder and executive chairman, had made the disclosure while having his statement taken at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Penang headquarters on August 14, 2021.

In reading out Ewe’s testimony in court, the prosecution’s 15th witness and MACC recording officer Muhammad Nazree Mansor said the former had in his statement admitted to meeting Lim — who was chief minister then — to discuss plans of developing state-owned lands.

“The purpose of the meeting with Lim was because I could see a lot of reclaimed lands near the City of Dreams project that was being developed by my company and from there a desire manifested within me to embark on a residential development project on said lands.

The City of Dreams is an ongoing RM800 million luxury serviced sea-front apartments project between Tanjung Tokong and Gurney Drive in Penang.

In order to obtain the ownership of said lands, Ewe said Lim had told him that he would seek out a state government project where the method of financing would be in the form of a land swap.

“What I needed to do was to deal with the contractor to sell the land to my company,” Ewe said.

Ewe, who was supposed to have been called in as one of the key prosecution witnesses, died after he reportedly fell from a luxury condominium in Jalan Kelawei, Penang, on October 5, 2021.

In his statement, Ewe expressed excitement and said he informed Lim that he would repay the latter’s kindness by gifting him several of the City of Dreams completed unit or a portion of the unit sales proceeds.

“After the meeting with Lim, Lim met with me again and told me that he has found a state government-owned development that is the Penang undersea tunnel project to which he said will be awarded to Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli’s Consortium Zenith Beijing Urban Construction Group Sdn Bhd (CZBUCG),” he said.

Subsequent to Lim’s proposal, Ewe said he met with Lim several more times after to seek assistance in the ownership transfer of the land from CZBUCG to Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd (which was owned by Ewe) sometime in 2013.

“At that time, I am aware that CZBUCG have signed the letter of award from the Penang state government involving the development of the Penang undersea tunnel and paired roads project,” Ewe said.

Previously, Zarul said he was shocked when Lim had asked for 10 per cent of the profit to be made by CZBUCG in the project of constructing three main roads and an undersea tunnel in the state.

Zarul said even though the project was to be awarded to his company as promised and via direct negotiation, Lim said he had to call for open tender for the project but promised to assist by ordering state officers to give full cooperation in the awarding of the contract.

According to another prosecution witness, it was also revealed that CZBUCG had outscored seven other companies in the open tender process, several months after it had “lobbied” the Penang state government in 2011.

Lim was ‘untouchable’ during Pakatan Harapan’s federal administration, Ewe claims

Towards the end of his statement, Muhammad Nazree asked Ewe if he was coerced or threatened to provide his supplementary statement to which the latter replied that he was not forced to do so and merely wanted to tell the truth.

As for why he provided a contradictory statement from three previous oral statements he provided to investigators in July 2020, Ewe said he knew Lim was “untouchable” during Pakatan’s reign when investigations into the undersea tunnel project had already commenced then.

“If any parties were to find out the revelation I am making here, I am worried it will create a negative implication for me.

“Moreover, I have been informed that YB Lim was accepting monies from contractor companies and I felt that I needed to expose the truth because there is too much secrecy I have withheld which I think will affect my business if it were to be uncovered.

“I am a bit worried about my safety after making this confession. But I will take precautions after this,” Ewe said.

During cross-examination by Lim’s lawyer Gobind Singh Deo disputed the contents of the supplementary statement provided by Ewe, pointing out that the initial three statements taken in July 2020 had purportedly “exonerated” Lim of any wrongdoings.

Muhammad Nazree had earlier affirmed to the defence that he was responsible for the statement taking of Ewe for a total of four separate occasions.

Gobind cited questions posed by Muhammad Nazree himself to Ewe where it was asked if Lim or Lim Hock Seng (then state executive councillor in charge of public works, utilities and transportation) was offered any form of gratifications that Ewe had answered accordingly.

One of the questions read out in court was whether a bribe was given to parties with vested interests during the land purchase with CZBUCG, which Ewe had replied in the negative.

The lawyer also said it was illogical for Ewe to claim Lim was “untouchable” since the first statement was taken in July 2020, five months after the Pakatan-led government was ousted which subsequently left Lim with no official government posts.

“Definitely no one in their right thinking would give such an explanation. The matter of the accused being untouchable does not arise at all because he is then already an Opposition MP.”

According to the first amended charge, Lim, 60, is accused of using his position as then Penang chief minister to obtain a bribe of RM3.3 million for helping a company owned by Zarul Ahmad to secure the construction project worth RM6,341,383,702. 

The offence was allegedly committed at the Penang Chief Minister’s Office, Level 28, Komtar in George Town between January 2011 and August 2017.

On the second amended charge, Lim is accused of soliciting bribes amounting to 10 per cent of the profits from Zarul Ahmad to be earned by the company as gratification for helping his (Zarul) company to secure the project. 

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

The Bagan MP also faces two charges of causing two plots of land, worth RM208.8 million, belonging to the Penang government to be disposed of to two companies, which are linked to the undersea tunnel project, between February 2015 and March 2017.

The offences were allegedly committed at the Penang Land and Mines Office, Level 21, Komtar on February 17, 2015 and March 22, 2017.

The hearing resumes tomorrow. – MalayMail

by: Kenneth Tee

Credit photo: Bernama

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