MACC Re-Launches Intensive Investigations into Penang Undersea Tunnel Project

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Former Penang Port Commission chairman, Jeffrey Chew Gim Eam has since been detained in connection with the probe while more people from the Penang government are expected to also be picked up soon.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has re-launched its probe into the Penang undersea tunnel project following new evidence it received on the matter.

The commission has since reportedly arrested former Penang Port Commission Chairman Jeffrey Chew Gim Eam yesterday in its probe on the project.

While Chew was the first to be arrested as investigators intensified their probe into the matter, more people from the state government are expected to be summoned to assist the probe.

“If need be, more arrests will be made. This time around, we hope to wrap up the investigation as soon as possible,” a source revealed to the New Straits Times.

Last year, the graft-buster had said it opened six investigation papers on the tunnel project since allegations of corruption surrounding the development were raised in 2017.

The MACC said the first investigation paper was opened in July 2017, while another five were opened in January 2018.

“A total of five investigative papers were completed and referred to the deputy public prosecutor.

“Three investigation papers have been returned to the commission for further investigation, while two are still under review by the deputy public prosecutor.

“The rest is still under investigation by the MACC,” the commission said in a statement on March 4 last year.

Chew was arrested when he turned up to give a statement at the Penang MACC headquarters at 2pm yesterday.

Before he became PPC chairman in 2018, Chew, 52, was the special assistant to former chief minister Lim Guan Eng in charge of manufacturing, industries and investments.

Three MACC teams conducted raids at several companies in connection with the undersea tunnel project over the past few days.

It is understood that the operation also involved the police and the Inland Revenue Board (LHDN).

The teams are believed to have been in Penang for the past two weeks to conduct the investigations.

The project, which costs RM6.3 billion and consists of four components, includes three road projects measuring 30km.

The development has long courted controversy, especially over the high cost of its RM305 million feasibility studies, as well as the nearly two-year-long delay in its completion.

In an entry on his portal in March last year, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin named several Penang DAP leaders and state government officials who he alleged were involved in corrupt practices involving the project.

He had claimed to have been given a 200-page document by an individual at the MACC, and that he would produce extracts of its contents in several online instalments to expose the matter.

The MACC had lodged a police report over claims made by Raja Petra in relation to the Penang undersea tunnel project.

In 2018, the MACC remanded Ewein Bhd managing director Datuk Ewe Swee Kheng and Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd senior executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli over their involvement in the undersea tunnel project.

The anti-graft agency at that time raided the offices of four state government agencies – the Penang Public Works Department, Penang State Secretary, Penang Office of Lands and Mines, and Penang Valuation and Property Services Department – and three property development and construction companies – Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd, 555 Capital Sdn Bhd and Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd’s Penang office.

Ewein Zenith is a joint-venture vehicle of Ewein Land Sdn Bhd and Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd.

The latter is a Malaysia-China joint venture that was awarded the mega project to build the 7.2km undersea tunnel connecting Gurney Drive on the island to Bagan Ajam in Seberang Prai, a 10.53km North Coastal Paired Road from Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang, the 5.7km Air Itam-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass and the 4.075km Gurney Drive-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass.

Consortium Zenith BUCG changed its name to Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd after the withdrawal of Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG).

It is believed that the MACC is looking into why the state government allowed the Penang Tunnel special purpose vehicle (SPV) company to pre-sell state land rights worth RM3 billion despite a four-year delay in the construction of roads.

Investigators are also believed to be looking into the RM305 million feasibility and detailed design studies that have yet to be completed, even though payment of RM220 million was made to the SPV.