KUALA LUMPUR: A former Tourism and Culture Minister, Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz(pix) told the Session Court here today that he received a donation from Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli, the contractor of the Penang undersea tunnel and paired road project.
Mohamed Nazri, 67, said the donation was to rehabilitate dilapidated religious schools in Pattani district in South Thailand.
He said this when he was cross-examined by former Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s lead counsel Gobind Singh Deo, who is representing Lim in a corruption case involving the construction of an undersea tunnel and paired road project in the state worth RM6.3 billion.
Gobind: Did you receive any payment for the case (tunnel project)? Mohamed Nazri replied “No”.
The witness also denied he had received RM500,000 in cash from Zarul Ahmad.
Meanwhile, during re-examination by deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, the 14th prosecution witness said Zarul Ahmad knew that the donation was for the construction of religious schools in Pattani.
When questioned by Wan Shaharuddin, as to whether the donation was for charity, Mohamed Nazri replied, “I am from Hulu Perak, a Malay of Pattani descent. I have visited Pattani since 1975, there are many pondok schools that are rundown. So from the 1990s, I got involved in getting donations to build schools in South Thailand.”
When he read his witness statement earlier, Mohamed Nazri said he came to know Zarul Ahmad in the early 1990s as a businessman through some of his old friends and they often exchanged views about the country’s current affairs.
“After the introduction, I knew Zarul Ahmad owned several companies in Malaysia. One of those was Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd. I am close to Zarul Ahmad but not in terms of politics or business.
“I don’t have any business dealings with him. I am close to him personally and socially. Throughout my association with him, I know he worked with various agencies and companies,” he added.
Initially, Zarul Ahmad did tell him that he wanted to know someone of influence in Penang to get him a project, but he did not state what the project was related to, he said.
“Afer that, I took the initiative to contact and ask Lim if he is interested to meet Zarul regarding projects in Penang. Lim agreed to meet with him and I arranged a meeting for them in early January 2011 at the Shangri La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. I don’t recall the actual date of the meeting.
“In early January 2011, I met with Lim at a pub in Shangri La Hotel. I don’t remember about the nature of the conversation at the pub, but Lim and I met around 9 pm.
“Zarul Ahmad, who came alone, showed up 10 minutes after. Besides introducing Zarul Ahmad to Lim, I really did not have any other dealings with Lim. Lim is an acquaintance of mine in politics,” Mohamed Nazri said.
The witness added that he could not recall if Zarul Ahmad had asked Lim to choose his company for any project in Penang throughout the one-hour meeting.
“As far as I recall, I also met Lim and Zarul Ahmad in March 2011 at an Italian restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. But I don’t remember if I contacted Lim or Zarul Ahmad to meet at the restaurant. I also don’t remember what time they both left the restaurant,” he said.
Lim is charged with using his position and Penang chief minister to solicit RM3.3 million in kickbacks for helping a company owned by Zarul Ahmad to secure a construction project worth RM6,341,383,702 at the Penang Chief Minister’s Office, Level 28, Komtar, George Town between January 2011 and August 2017.
He is also charged with soliciting 10 per cent of future profits from Zarul Ahmad as a reward for helping secure the project near The Garden Hotels, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur in March 2011.
Lim, who is also DAP secretary-general, is facing two other charges involving two plots of land worth RM208.8 owned by the Penang state government that have been disposed to two companies allegedly linked to the undersea tunnel project.
The hearing before Judge Azura Alwi continues tomorrow.-Bernama