KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 — The prosecution’s star witness in Lim Guan Eng’s corruption trial told the Sessions Court today that he had instructed his lawyers to recover a sum of RM19 million from businessman G. Gnanaraja.
According to Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd senior executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli, the money paid to Gnanaraja was in exchange for dropping ongoing graft investigations in relation to the Penang undersea tunnel project after the latter defrauded him.
Zarul Ahmad made the disclosure when the defence asked him to clarify a letter of demand (LOD) for the return of the money and if had explicitly stated that the RM19 million was to be “held in trust” by Gnanaraja on consultation works done.
Zarul Ahmad, who is the 23rd prosecution witness, previously told the court he had paid the RM19 million to conmen who claimed to be the “powers that be”, in exchange for investigations to be dropped.
Gnanaraja was named by Zarul Ahmad as one of the conmen.
Under questioning from Lim’s lawyer Gobind Singh Deo, Zarul Ahmad repeatedly said he only wanted the money to be returned.
“I can’t remember the exact wording but that was the gist of it. The gist of it is I wanted my money back.
“The purpose of the money was to give to Gnanaraja to supposedly pass to the prime minister,” Zarul Ahmad replied, in reference to Datuk Seri Najib Razak who held the post back then.
Gnanaraja was said to have close ties with Najib.
When suggested that the RM19 million was given to Gnanaraja to be held in trust as stated in the LOD, Zarul Ahmad told the court that he was unable to recall the exact wording and repeated that he merely wanted his money back.
Irked by Zarul Ahmad’s unchanging response, Gobind asked the witness to answer his question directly on whether the RM19 million was given to Gnanaraja to be held in trust.
Zarul then told Gobind to ask Shahrul Hamidi & Haziq — the law firm that he engaged and provided the LOD service at that time.
“You have to ask my lawyer. I just told my lawyers I want my money back,” Zarul Ahmad said, adding that he was informed that Gnanaraja did not respond to his correspondence.
Today, the witness also said he had no knowledge of Gnanaraja’s testimony to investigators where the latter had denied cheating and threatening him.
Zarul Ahmad previously testified that Gnanaraja had threatened him with criminal prosecution over his involvement in the Penang undersea tunnel project.
Later, Zarul Ahmad informed the court he was experiencing heart palpitations and sought for proceedings to be halted for the day.
Zarul Ahmad also produced in court a doctor's letter following a preliminary diagnosis performed a day prior and stated he is scheduled for an appointment before a specialist later today.
The defence then asked the witness if he was able to carry on the cross-examination which Zarul Ahmad replied in the negative as he felt very uncomfortable and would like to rest for the day.
Session Court judge Azura Alwi then adjourned the hearing to be resumed tomorrow following a short recess.
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 have solicited 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.