Witness claimed prepared to pay money to close probes of graft against Guan Eng

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RM19 million meant for Najib, RM3 million “purportedly” for Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.

A key witness in the corruption trial involving Lim Guan Eng on the Penang undersea tunnel project told the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court that he would “do anything” in his power to protect the former Penang chief minister, including bribing the prime minister at that time.

During the cross-examination by Lim’s counsel Gobind Singh Deo on Friday (Aug 5), Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZC) senior executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli said that he was willing to bribe the prime minister to close the graft probe into the planned RM6.3 billion project.

Following his Aug 4 testimony admitting he made up the story in a media interview in July 2018 that there was no element of corruption in the project, Zarul testified on Friday that not all things revealed during the interview were a lie.

For example, he said incidents about being harassed by individuals linked to then Barisan Nasional former government to pay were real.

Saifullizan Tamadi/NST

On July 2 that year, several news portals reported that Zarul claimed that he was pressured to the point of as if “someone was putting a gun” to his head to pay RM22 million to stop the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) from investigating the undersea tunnel project.

Gobind: There were threats from conmen demanding protection money?

Zarul: Yes.

Gobind: At that time, you paid them in order to bribe the MACC?

Zarul: No. It was not a bribe.

Gobind: So, you paid them to close a graft probe, correct?

Zarul: Yes.

Gobind: So, you’re a person who is prepared to pay money to close probes of graft?

Zarul: The probe was against YB Lim Guan Eng. Therefore, I would do anything I can to stop all these. I will try anything in my power to try to stop this. In fact, I did. I even tried to approach people on your side also during…

Gobind: Can you answer my question?

Zarul: I’m giving the explanation, yes or no will not give any answer.

This prompted judge Azura Alwi to intervene and told Zarul that he would be given a chance to explain.

When asked, Zarul agreed that he was prepared to pay to close a graft probe by the MACC “on a particular issue.”

He also agreed that the RM22 million was a huge amount that was paid to a businessman, MG Gnanaraja, who claimed to be close to then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

He also clarified that from the RM22 million, RM19 million was meant for Najib and agreed that the remaining RM3 million was “purportedly” for Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.

Agreeing that Gnanaraja was a “conman”, Zarul said he did not realise the truth then.

On April 3, 2019, Gnanaraja was charged in the Shah Alam Session Court with three counts of cheating Zarul of RM19 million into believing that he was able to settle a MACC investigation into the undersea tunnel project.

Gobind: It was a lot of money…and you gave it to a conman.

Zarul: Yes. I didn’t know he was a conman at the time.

Gobind: Najib was the prime minister at that time.

Zarul: Yes.

Gobind: A PM who was the head of BN (Barisan Nasional).

Zarul: Yes

Gobind: Which was the opposing party of the government at that time.

Zarul: Yes

Gobind: Which was the party that would want evidence to fix up Lim Guan Eng, if possible, correct? They are opposed to each other, correct?

Zarul: I don’t know…whether they are…

Gobind: Come on, Datuk, you are saying Najib and Lim Guan Eng were good friends?

Zarul: I don’t know.

Gobind: But you said that in your evidence, that Barisan kept attacking you.

Zarul: Yes.

Gobind: You also said that they attacked you because of your position in Penang.

Zarul: Yes.

Gobind: That would mean that they would want information against Lim Guan Eng, correct?

Zarul: Yes.

Gobind: And you then go and pay their boss to protect Lim Guan Eng.

Zarul: Yes.

Gobind: That’s absolute rubbish, Datuk.

Zarul: I don’t know.

Gobind: It is impossible to believe that you would have paid Najib money to protect Lim Guan Eng.

Zarul: I paid for him to…because I thought the money would go to Najib.

Gobind: You would pay Najib to protect Lim Guan Eng?

Zarul: Yes.

Gobind: You were prepared to even bribe the PM to protect Lim Guan Eng?

Zarul: Yes.

Gobind then refuted that it made no sense for Zarul to approach Lim’s arch-rival, who was also attacking his project in Penang for help.

Gobind: Barisan and the opposition in Penang were attacking you and your project, they were saying all sorts of things. And by your evidence they were attacking Lim Guan Eng too. If that is the case you wouldn’t have approached them, bribed them in order to save your project, or save Lim Guan Eng. That doesn’t make sense.

Zarul: It made sense to me. I was desperate to make sure they would not do anything to YB (Lim). – The Star