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Former Penang state secretary says Guan Eng had not informed exco of his earlier meeting with Zarul

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 12): A former Penang state secretary testified on on Thursday (Nov 11) that former chief minister Lim Guan Eng had not declared at a state executive council (exco) meeting in January 2011 that he had met Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) managing director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli over the undersea tunnel project.

Datuk Seri Farizan Darus, 62, said that at the meeting, which was chaired by Lim, he had informed those present about the proposal to have the tunnel project.

“He (Lim) mainly spoke about the idea to have the undersea tunnel project and whether there could be problems or obstacles in having it built below land that will affect the people's properties.

“In the meeting, there was also a first discussion on the supposed preparation of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the project. The state wanted a detailed impact assessment study in terms of the state finances, along with the related feasibility study,” Farizan said in reply to questions from Deputy Public Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin.

Wan Shaharuddin: Did Lim tell the exco that he had met Datuk Zarul Ahmad or had private discussions over the matter?

Farizan: No

Wan Shahruddin: Did he inform that the company may bid for the project?

Farizan: No, he only said that it is a private company.

Farizan, who is the ninth prosecution witness in the trial at the Sessions Court, is presently chairman of the Penang Infrastructure Corporation Sdn Bhd.

He testified that from the January 2011 meeting until a later exco meeting that saw land being awarded to Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd in 2014, Lim had informed the exco about his meeting with Datuk Ewe Swee Keng, the founder and chairman of Ewein Bhd that holds a stake in Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd.

“The name of the company Ewein Zenith had not come up before,” said Farizan.

Former Penang executive councillor Lim Hock Seng had testified previously that in 2014, the Penang government approved the transfer of ownership of two pieces of land connected to the undersea tunnel project.

The two companies that were nominated for the land were Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd and Zenith Urban Development Sdn Bhd.

Ewe, 53, died last month, on Oct 5, after falling off a high-end condominium in Jalan Kelawai.

BUCG had unfair advantage

Farizan, who was chairman of the State Procurement Board, also testified about his concern that BUCG may have an unfair advantage over other bidders for the undersea tunnel project.

“Ye,s BUCG scored high marks for the project compared to its nearest rival,” he said, adding that this could be due to the company being present in the board meeting and also being familiar with the briefings," he said in response to a question from DPP Farah Yasmin Salleh.

He said that on a scale of one to 10, BUCG was not 0, as it had a distinct advantage.

“BUCG did not start at the same point or level with the other bidding companies,” he added.

During cross-examination, Lim's lawyer Gobind Singh Deo asked Farizan as to why, as chairman of the board, he had not disallowed BUCG from attending the meeting due to possible conflict of interests.

“Why did you keep quiet until today? You knew but did nothing," Gobind said.

Farizan replied that as far as he was concerned, BUCG's involvement was from the time the MoU was signed and that they were there earlier to offer their views due to their expertise.

“Their involvement was at the early stages following the MoU, but for them to do the whole RFP (request for proposal), it’s unacceptable, unless they are not involved in the final project,” he said.

The trial continues on Friday (Nov 12).

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