KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 — A key prosecution witness in the corruption trial of Lim Guan Eng told the Sessions Court here today that he was prepared to "pay off" then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in exchange for protection to be given to the former chief minister from possible graft probes.
Under cross-examination as the 23rd prosecution witness, Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd senior executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli went as far as to say he was obligated to Lim and further questioned why he should bite the hand that feeds him.
Defence lawyer Gobind Singh Deo had earlier queried Zarul Ahmad over a purported RM19 million payment to conmen who claimed to be the "powers that be” in exchange for dropping graft investigations against the company in relation to the Penang undersea tunnel project.
When asked who were the purported conmen, Zarul Ahmad said one of them was businessman G. Gnanaraja, who was claimed to have close ties with Najib who was then head of the Malaysian government and Barisan Nasional (BN).
Gobind: You would pay Najib to protect Lim Guan Eng?
Zarul Ahmad: Yes.
Gobind: You are prepared to bribe the prime minister of Malaysia?
Zarul Ahmad: Yes, to protect Lim Guan Eng.
Gobind: I put it to you that your evidence does not make any sense. If you wanted to protect someone, you would not approach their arch-rival, the very same people who were attacking your [undersea] project in Penang.
Zarul Ahmad: It made sense to me to make sure they will not do anything to YB Lim.
Still under cross-examination, Zarul Ahmad was further grilled by the defence over his preparedness to commit a criminal offence for the sake of protecting someone.
Gobind: So you're a person who is prepared to pay money to close probes for graft? Yes or no?
Zarul Ahmad: The probe is against Lim Guan Eng, definitely I would do anything to stop...I would try anything in my power to stop...
At this point, Gobind stopped the witness in his tracks and insisted the witness reply with either a yes or no answer.
Zarul Ahmad: Yes.
Gnanaraja — who was introduced to Zarul Ahmad by former minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz — has since been charged with cheating Zarul Ahmad and also had his Datukship revoked by the Pahang Palace in 2019. He was accused of deceiving Zarul Ahmad into paying him RM19 million between July and August 2017 in exchange for using his connections to help settle an ongoing Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission probe into the company, which was the main contractor for the RM6.34 billion undersea tunnel project.
Earlier, Zarul Ahmad also affirmed in court that he was constantly "attacked" by the Opposition in Penang composed of those from the BN bloc due to his links with the undersea project and sought information from him to be used against Lim.
Accordingly, the attacks manifested in the form of insinuation that the awarding of the undersea tunnel project was rife with corruption and abuse of power.
However, Zarul Ahmad said he also made efforts to convince said naysayers that there were no elements of corruption in the awarding process.
Lim is facing an amended charge of using his position as Penang chief minister back then to receive a bribe of RM3.3 million in helping the company owned by Zarul Ahmad to obtain a construction project worth RM6,341,383,702.
The offence was allegedly committed at the Penang Chief Minister’s Office on the 28th floor of Komtar, George Town between January 2011 and August 2017.
For the second amended charge, Lim is alleged to solicit from Zarul Ahmad, 10 per cent of the profit to be gained by the company in appreciation of obtaining the project.
Lim is accused of committing this offence near The Gardens Hotel, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City in Kuala Lumpur, in March 2011.
The DAP politician who is both Bagan MP and Air Putih assemblyman is also facing two other charges of causing two plots of land worth RM208.8 million belonging to the Penang government to be disposed of to two companies claimed to be connected to the undersea tunnel project.
He is charged with committing the offences at the Penang Land and Mines Department on the 21st floor of Komtar on February 17, 2015 and March 22, 2017.