A key witness in the trial of Lim Guan Eng told the Sessions Court today that he had paid RM19 million to a middleman who was allegedly close to former prime minister Najib Razak, to stop a graft investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) against the Bagan MP.
Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZCSB) director Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli, 62, said he did so as he did not want to "bite the hand that feeds him", since Lim, who was the Penang chief minister at the time, had awarded him the RM6.34 billion Penang undersea tunnel project.
Under cross-examination by Lim’s counsel Gobind Singh Deo, Zarul said he had been willing to protect Lim to the extent of bribing Najib to stop the probe against Lim on the controversial Penang undersea tunnel project.
The 23rd prosecution witness said he made the RM19 million payment through a businessman, G Gnanaraja, who was allegedly close to Najib, to stop the graft investigation against Lim.
When further questioned, however, Zarul said he was not sure whether the money had really reached Najib.
Gobind: Najib was the prime minister and head of Barisan Nasional (BN) in 2017. BN was the opposition party to the Penang state government.
Gobind: So you went to pay their (BN) boss to protect Lim?
Gobind then said it was impossible and did not make sense for Zarul to pay Najib in order to protect Lim, adding that if Zarul wanted to protect Lim, he wouldn’t be paying Najib as he was Lim’s political rival.
Zarul replied that it made sense to him as at that time, he was desperate to make sure that Lim was protected and that the BN government "wouldn’t do anything" to Lim.
Gobind also suggested that Zarul was prepared to lie in order to protect himself from being prosecuted when making a press statement in 2018, where he had said there were no elements of corruption in the undersea tunnel project as it was done legitimately.
Gobind: Your evidence in court yesterday that you lied in the press statement in order to protect Lim is not true.
Zarul: You have to look at it in the entire context. I was asked to make the whole statement. I am obligated.
Gobind: I put it to you, that you are certainly prepared to lie to protect yourself.
Zarul: I do not agree.
Lim, 61, faces an amended charge of using his position as Penang chief minister to solicit RM3.3 million in bribes as an inducement to assist Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd (CZBUCG) owner Zarul in securing the project worth RM6,341,383,702.
He is accused of committing 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 in March 2011.
Lim, the former DAP secretary-general, also faces another two charges of causing two plots of land worth RM208.8 million belonging to the Penang government to be disposed of to two companies linked to the state’s undersea tunnel project.
The trial before judge Azura Alwi continues on Monday.