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Azeez: I have never heard of Zenith Construction

Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim

GEORGE TOWN (Feb 28): Pilgrims Fund Board (Tabung Haji) chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, served with a letter of demand by Penang undersea tunnel developer Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZC), said he does not know the company.

“I have no idea who Zarul (CZC senior director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli) is and I have never heard of Zenith Construction before. I have never communicated with them,” Abdul Azeez said when contacted yesterday.

According to sources close to CZC, the company has accused Abdul Azeez and businessman Datuk Seri N Gnanaraja of failing to provide consultancy services in regulatory compliance and risk management after being paid RM19 million and RM3 million respectively, for work relating to the RM6.3 billion tunnel as well as three highways on Penang island

CZC, in letters of demand issued on Saturday to Abdul Azeez and Gnanaraja, is claiming the money allegedly paid to them, said a source, adding that the consultancy services were stipulated in an agreement between the duo and CZC last July. Abdul Azeez, however, insists that he is unaware of the alleged payment to him. “The letter talks about money being transferred, but I don't know what this is all about. I have no dealings with Zarul,” he said. “I only just learnt about the letter and have instructed my solicitors to handle the matter because I don't know what all this is about," he told The Edge Financial Daily via telephone, declining to speak further on the matter.

It is not known what Abdul Azeez's actual role is in the agreement but suffice to say that he does not own a company providing such consultancy services, a source told The Edge Financial Daily.  Zarul, when contacted, said he is currently on sabbatical and requested all questions to be forwarded to his company’s lawyer.

Zarul’s Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd owns a 47.12% stake in CZC, a special purpose vehicle established to take on the Penang project. His Bursa Malaysia-listed company Vertice Bhd has a 13.2% stake in that company. Zarul, who resigned as Vertice chairman on Feb 13 to pursue other business interests, owns a 0.86% direct stake and 20.86% indirect interest in the apparel company via his special vehicle Vista Lestari Development Sdn Bhd.

CZC has been the subject of controversy after Barisan Nasional leaders, including Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan and Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong questioned, among other things, the RM305 million cost for the undersea tunnel’s feasibility study and detailed design, and the detailed environmental impact assessment for the roads. Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof had also questioned Penang’s 30-year toll concession for the tunnel which would be at a similar rate to the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge, claiming this would make it “the most lopsided toll concessions in the country”.

Earlier this year, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission remanded a high-level executive from CZC, Ewein Bhd managing director Datuk Ewe Swee Kheng, an engineering consultancy firm chairman, and another consultant to assist in investigations involving the cost of the study. The authorities had also raided several Penang government offices and private firms in connection with the matter.

The Penang infrastructure project consists of the 6.3km undersea tunnel, a 4.2km bypass from Gurney Drive to Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, a 4.6km bypass between Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu and Bandar Baru Air Itam, and a 12km paired-road from Jalan Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang.CZC was awarded the project by the Penang state government after an open tender in 2013.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on Feb 28, 2018.

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