"My client (Lim) wasn’t born on July 23 and he didn’t stay at Taman Duta,” Gobind said, contending that it was the birthday of the country’s “former prime minister” but did not disclose a name. At the time, Malaysia’s prime minister was Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 18): The defence in former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng’s undersea tunnel graft trial alluded to “chocolate” — code for a RM2 million cash kickback — being for the prime minister in 2017, during proceedings at the Sessions Court on Wednesday.
The trial’s eighth prosecution witness, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) forensic officer Wan Mohd Firdaus Wan Yusof was finally provided with the much-contested forensic report on Wednesday (Jan 18), and lead defence lawyer Gobind Singh Deo cross-examined the witness on its contents.
Gobind had previously alleged that the forensic report contained WhatsApp messages between Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZSB) director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli and businessman G Gnanaraja, which had not been given to the defence.
In response to questions from the defence, Firdaus confirmed that the forensic report contained WhatsApp messages on August 17, 2017, which pertained to Zarul telling Gnanaraja that he had to pass the latter “chocolate” for the “Bigboss”.
Subsequently, the MACC officer confirmed that messages on July 23, 2017 mentioned Gnanaraja celebrating the birthday of the “Bigboss” and that he would be meeting “Bigboss” again at Taman Duta to brief him on the pair’s “matter”. In the messages, Zarul had also purportedly asked Gnanaraja whether he should pass him the “chocolate” before he met the "Bigboss", to which Gnanaraja answered in the negative.
“My client (Lim) wasn’t born on July 23 and he didn’t stay at Taman Duta,” Gobind said, contending that it was the birthday of the country’s “former prime minister” but did not disclose a name. At the time, Malaysia’s prime minister was Datuk Seri Najib Razak. He held the post of premier from 2009 to 2018 and is known to have a residence in Taman Duta.
According to news reports, he was born on July 23, 1953.
Meanwhile, Firdaus also confirmed that WhatsApp messages on July 27, 2017, referred to Zarul preparing a letter for “Bigboss”, while in July 28’s messages, Gnanaraja asked Zarul if the letter to the “pm” is ready.
Deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Ahmad Akram Gharib interjected and noted that Firdaus can only confirm the contents of the forensic report, but not verify the interpretation of the Whatsapp messages ― something which only Zarul or Gnanaraja can do.
Gobind continued and again claimed that the “Bigboss” equated to the “prime minister”, however, when the defence lawyer posed to Firdaus whether the witness could confirm this assertion, Firdaus said he is unable to.
During reexamination, Firdaus told DPP Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin that the messages did not mention that the money was not paid to Lim, orthat the money was paid to someone else. Wan Shaharuddin also called Gobind’s words "statements from the Bar" ― an opinion not backed by evidence ― and asked the court to not record the defence’s statements.
In response to the prosecution’s objection, Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi said that to be fair to both parties, the defence is to make a formal application under Section 51 of the Criminal Procedure Code for a court order to compel the prosecution to produce the forensic report.
Azura set a deadline of Feb 9 for the filing of the application, while the trial is set to continue on Feb 15 with parties to provide their submissions on the application.
Zarul had previously testified that the pair had allegedly worked together to deliver RM2 million cash in kickbacks to Lim. Zarul also testified that the pair used terms such as “chocolate” and “Bigboss” to refer to the cash and Lim respectively when they communicated via WhatsApp.
Lim, who is the MP for Bagan, is accused of using his position as the then Penang chief minister to solicit a 10% cut in the RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel project’s profit from Zarul, in return for aiding the businessman’s company secure the project. He is accused of accepting RM3.3 million in kickbacks from Zarul.
The DAP chairman also faces two counts of dishonest misappropriation of property in releasing two plots of state-owned land cumulatively worth RM208.75 million to Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd and Zenith Urban Development Sdn Bhd ― two property companies linked to the controversial undersea tunnel project.
Gnanaraja was charged in the Shah Alam Sessions Court in 2019 with deceiving a director of Consortium Zenith for RM19 million in relation to the Penang undersea tunnel project. He is alleged to have deceived the director sometime between July and August 2017.
In October last year, it was revealed that Gnanaraja’s case in Shah Alam had been classified as no further action, despite 11 witnesses having already testified.
According to the MACC’s website, Gnanaraja was instead found guilty by the Sessions Court under the Companies Act 2016 and fined RM230,000 for using a company’s property with a value of RM11.42 million to obtain direct profit for himself without seeking approval at a company’s shareholder meeting.