Thursday 18 Apr 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR (March 23): The late Ewein Bhd founder Datuk Ewe Swee Kheng decided to give an additional statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) against former Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng last August as the former DAP secretary-general was no longer considered “untouchable” following the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition government, according to the anti-graft agency.

MACC recording officer Superintendent Muhammad Nazree Mansor, who was reading Ewe's statement during Lim's graft trial involving the RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel in the Sessions Court here on Wednesday (March 23), said Ewe had told him that when MACC began their investigations into the undersea tunnel project, PH was still in power in Putrajaya.

“Lim had also been acquitted in court pertaining to the (earlier) bungalow case, which he faced, whereby at that time I knew he was 'untouchable'. After that, I heard lots of stories of Lim allegedly receiving money from contractor companies.

“I feel there is a need for me to ‘tell the truth’. As there are a lot of secrets regarding this matter which I have kept to myself, which I felt over time there is a need to expose it as it may affect my business,” Ewe's statement read.

Ewe's seven-page statement, dated Aug 14, 2021, was recorded by hand by Nazree — the prosecution's 15th witness — and was accepted by the court to be tendered as evidence last Dec 16 by Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi.

Ewe, who was executive chairman of Ewein — the developer of the City of Dreams project in Penang — died in the early hours of the morning of Oct 5 last year after falling from his 17th floor condominium unit in Penang. He was 53.

Following his demise, his wife Datin Seet Chin Leng testified last November that she knew her husband had been called in by the MACC to give his statement prior to his death, but said she was unaware of the details and that her late husband had never discussed the matter with her.
 
The examination in chief of Nazree was done by DPP Datuk Wan Shahruddin Wan Ladin.

Repaying goodwill in the form of kickback

Ewe, in his Aug 14 statement, said he met Lim in 2011 to inquire about potential Penang State land that could be explored for development as he had observed that there were several ongoing coastal land reclamation projects.

Ewe spoke of his desire to build residential properties on those reclaimed land.

In his final statement, the businessman explained how, in exchange for Lim's help or goodwill to secure plots for that, his company would pay the politician with either condominium units or a cut of the profit.

Ewe also alleged that Lim had suggested that his company take part in a state infrastructure project that will involve a land swap, which Lim later told him was the Penang undersea tunnel project.

According to Ewe’s statement, Guan Eng proposed that the businessman approach the contractor — Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd (CZBUCG) — which had been awarded the construction of the Penang undersea tunnel project and would be paid in the form of reclaimed land for their services.

“What I had to do was ‘deal’ with the aforesaid contractor (CZBUCG), to (get them to) sell the land to my company. At that time, I was very excited with what Lim told me,” he said.

He added that Lim told him that if he succeeded in his deal with CZBUCG’s senior executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli, he could “control duit” as the contractor had no "power", but did not elaborate.

Ewe also revealed he had had prior dealings with the then Penang CM in 2015 when he sought Lim's assistance when he wanted to propose the construction of the City of Dreams, a luxury sea-front development in Bandar Tanjung Pinang.

“[At that time], EZSB (Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd) had yet to receive approval from Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang (MBPP) (Penang city council) relating to the project.

“I requested Lim’s assistance in expediting the approval process for the aforesaid project, where then the local council, accordingly, gave its approval for the proposal and construction plan. I believe that Guan Eng helped me in this matter where EZSB had received approval from the MBPP in a short period of time,” Ewe's statement read.

EZSB is a joint venture company between Ewein’s subsidiary Ewein Land Sdn Bhd and Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZCSB), in which the former held 89% stake and the latter 11%.

Nazree told the court that he had asked Ewe, before he concluded the recording session with him, whether he was coerced, forced or blackmailed in giving his statement. To this, the businessman replied that he had gone to the MACC voluntarily.

“What I have told the MACC is the truth,” Ewe said in concluding his recorded statement.

The MACC officer further asked Ewe whether he required protection in providing the statement, but the 52-year-old Penang businessman replied there was no need.

Defence questioned why Ewe's statement was recorded by hand

Lim's lead counsel Gobind Singh Deo, in cross examining Nazree, questioned why the prosecution only chose to bring forward one of Ewe’s six statements that the anti-graft agency had recorded between July 3, 2020, and Aug 14, 2021.

Nazree testified that three of the four statements he recorded made no mention of the allegations pinned against Lim, while two other statements Ewe made were recorded by another MACC officer.

The senior counsel also quizzed the MACC officer over why the MACC recorded Ewe's statement by hand.

Nazree said he travelled from Putrajaya headquarters to Penang with several other MACC officers to meet Ewe, and that they had not brought a laptop. He also said he could not access any computer or laptop in the Penang MACC office as it was not a working day in the State when he met with Ewe on Aug 14, 2021, which was a Saturday.

Gobind then told the court that the three other statements Nazree took from Ewe did not mention Lim's purported abuse of power.

Gobind: Why did you not read the other statements?

Nazree: I was only referred to this statement (by the prosecution).

The lawyer claimed that the prosecution had purposely chosen not to inform the court of the other statements because they did not want to present the whole story of what took place.

He further claimed that there was evidence in the other statements, which were tendered but not read, that was in support of the defence.

The lawyer further questioned the validity of Ewe’s final statement, and suggested that Nazree was not alone with Ewe in the MACC interrogation room.

To this, Nazree agreed and said four other MACC officers were also present.

Guan Eng, who is the Member of Parliament for Bagan, is facing two charges of dishonest misappropriation of property by releasing two plots of state-owned land to EZSB and Zenith Urban Development Sdn Bhd.

He is also accused of soliciting a 10% cut in profits from the undersea tunnel project from  CZCSB senior executive director Zarul in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur in 2011.

The trial is slated to continue on Thursday (March 24) before Judge Azura, with the continued cross-examination of Nazree.

Edited ByTan Choe Choe
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