Former tourism minister Nazri Aziz told the Session Court in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that he received a donation from Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli, the contractor of the Penang undersea tunnel and paired road project.
Nazri, 67, said the donation was to rehabilitate dilapidated religious schools in the Pattani district in South Thailand.
He said this during cross-examination by former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng’s lead counsel Gobind Singh Deo, who is representing Lim in a corruption case involving the construction of an undersea tunnel and paired road project in the state worth RM6.3 billion.
When asked if he had received any payment for the tunnel project case, Nazri said no.
He also denied that he had received RM500,000 in cash from Zarul.
During re-examination by deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, the 14th prosecution witness said Zarul knew that the donation was for the construction of religious schools in Pattani.
When questioned by Wan Shaharuddin about whether the donation was for charity, Nazri replied, “I am from Hulu Perak, a Malay of Pattani descent. I have visited Pattani since 1975, there are many pondok schools that are rundown. So from the 1990s, I got involved in getting donations to build schools in South Thailand.”
Reading from his witness statement earlier, Nazri said he came to know Zarul in the early 1990s as a businessman through some of his old friends and that they often exchanged views about the country’s current affairs.
“After the introduction, I knew Zarul owned several companies in Malaysia. One of those was Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd. I am close to Zarul but not in terms of politics or business.
“I don’t have any business dealings with him. I am close to him personally and socially. Throughout my association with him, I know he worked with various agencies and companies,” he added.
Initially, Zarul told him that he wanted to know someone of influence in Penang to get him a project, but he did not state what the project was related to, he said.
“Afer that, I took the initiative to contact and ask Lim if he is interested to meet Zarul regarding projects in Penang. Lim agreed to meet with him and I arranged a meeting for them in early January 2011 at the Shangri La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. I don’t recall the actual date of the meeting.
“In early January 2011, I met with Lim at a pub in Shangri La Hotel. I don’t remember about the nature of the conversation at the pub, but Lim and I met around 9pm.
“Zarul, who came alone, showed up 10 minutes after. Besides introducing Zarul to Lim, I really did not have any other dealings with Lim. Lim is an acquaintance of mine in politics,” Nazri said.
He added that he could not recall if Zarul had asked Lim to choose his company for any project in Penang throughout the one-hour meeting.
“As far as I recall, I also met Lim and Zarul in March 2011 at an Italian restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. But I don’t remember if I contacted Lim or Zarul to meet at the restaurant. I also don’t remember what time they both left the restaurant,” he said.
Lim is charged with using his position as Penang chief minister to solicit RM3.3 million in kickbacks for helping a company owned by Zarul to secure a construction project worth RM6,341,383,702 at the Penang Chief Minister’s Office, Level 28, Komtar, George Town between January 2011 and August 2017.
He is also charged with soliciting 10% of future profits from Zarul as a reward for helping secure the project near The Garden Hotels, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur in March 2011.
Lim, who is also DAP secretary-general, is facing two other charges involving two plots of land worth RM208.8 million owned by the Penang state government that were disposed to two companies allegedly linked to the undersea tunnel project.
The hearing before judge Azura Alwi continues today.