Crime & Courts

Two plots of land swapped for undersea tunnel project valued at RM300 million

KUALA LUMPUR: Two witnesses in the corruption trial of former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng today spoke about plots of state land that had been given to a developer as part of a land-swap deal for the undersea tunnel project.

The first witness testified that the two plots of land were worth RM300 million, and the second witness detailed how the land was transferred to the developer.

Both plots — identified as Lot 702 and Lot 713 at Bandar Tanjung Pinang in George Town — are central to the corruption charges that the DAP politician is facing in relation to the RM6.34 billion undersea tunnel project.

Today's hearing started with the court being informed that key prosecution witness, Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli, could not continue with his testimony as he was unwell, after complaining of palpitations and high blood pressure while testifying on Tuesday.

Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said the Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd director had obtained four days of medical leave as his condition did not improve after yesterday's session.

However, he said the prosecution had anticipated this and lined up two other witnesses to give testimony.

The first witness was private land valuer Tan Gaik Eng, who is director of Penang-based G E Tan Valuers Sdn Bhd.

The 71-year-old related how he had been contacted by Ewein Land Sdn Bhd in June 2013 to value Lot 702, which he did. He priced it at RM135 million based on various comparables.

The valuation of Lot 713, he said, was also done on Ewein's request in June 2015 and this plot was valued at RM165 million.

The valuations of both plots by the developer were way above what had been cited by two land valuers from the Penang land and mines office, who were asked to do the valuation by the state government in 2015.

These valuers had previously testified that they were asked to put a price tag on the two plots on two separate occasions — December 2014 and November 2016.

They had valued Lot 702 at a mere RM50 million and the other lot at just RM30 million.

During cross-examination by Lim's lead counsel, Gobind Singh Deo, Tan said he was unaware of the valuation done by the state-appointed valuers.

Tan seemed taken aback when told that both plots had been valued at a mere RM80 million.

"RM80 million... combined?... I am not aware," he said.

The second witness, Norfadila Kassim, confirmed that both plots had been transferred to Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd and she was involved in the process.

The 36-year-old official from the land and mines office also testified about the various conditions imposed on the land and how it could be used, before she was released from the stand without being cross-examined by the defence.

Lim is accused of misappropriating RM208.7 million worth of state land to the two companies, under Section 403 of the Penal Code.

He is also alleged to have used his former position to ask Zarul for a 10 per cent cut of the profits from the project, and accepting RM3.3 million in kickbacks from Zarul.

The trial before judge Azura Alwi will continue on Sept 29.

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