‘I was wrongly charged,’ Liong Sik tells court
UPDATED @ 05:47:18 PM 17-07-2012
KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 — Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, the man currently in the centre of a high-profile trial on the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal, raised eyebrows in court today when he unexpectedly piped up to declare his innocence against charges of cheating the government.
The 69-year-old Dr Ling, who was at the witness stand this morning for the third time since last Friday, had raised his hands to address the court just after his counsel Wong Kian Kheong wrapped up examination-in-chief.
“Yang Arif, as my learned lawyer has said ... I personally believe that I have been wrongly charged,” he told Justice Datuk Ahmadi Asnawi.
Visible surprised, Ahmadi pointed out to Dr Ling that such a matter was for his counsel Wong to prove during submissions.
But Dr Ling, unperturbed, went on determinedly, refusing to be interrupted.
“Yes ... but if Yang Arif has any more questions to ask (me),” he said, to giggles from the gallery.
Smiling, Ahmadi pointed out that the prosecution was likely to have many questions to put to him during cross-examination.
“You can stand down now,” he told Dr Ling.
The former MCA president is facing the possibility of a seven-year jail term, or fine, or both, for allegedly deceiving the Cabinet into approving the purchase of 999.5 acres of land for the PKFZ project, which had resulted in wrongful losses for the government.
He also faces two alternative charges of deceiving the Cabinet into believing that the terms of purchase — at RM25 psf plus 7.5 per cent interest — were acknowledged and agreed to by the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) despite knowing that there was no such agreement.
Earlier during examination-in-chief, the retired politician told the court that he would never “dare” deceive Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who was prime minister at the time.
“No. I dare not. I wouldn’t have the audacity to tell lies to the PM, as I mentioned yesterday,” Dr Ling said.
He was responding to a question from Wong on whether he had intended to deceive Dr Mahathir when he signed off on two letters — one on April 3, 2002, and another on June 29 the same year — recommending the purchase of the land from turnkey developer Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB) on willing buyer-willing seller basis, instead of through compulsory acquisition.
During his testimony yesterday, Dr Ling had admitted that the June 29 letter had contained “lies” although he had signed it but added that he had neither prepared the document nor was aware that it contained misleading information.
Dr Ling also repeatedly told the court today that he had at all times instructed his officials to follow the land valuation done by JPPH with respect to the price of land.
He said he had never urged the prime minister, Finance Ministry or any Cabinet minister against following the JPPH valuation, pointing out that the only authority on the subject in the government was the department.
“No, absolutely not,” he said, when questioned by Wong.
Dr Ling added that he had never understood the basis and the valuation of the land by JPPH as he has no qualification or training on the matter.
“No [I did not understand] because it is the first time I am hearing of ‘special value’ because to us, value is value,” he said.
He was addressing the multiple references to the RM25 psf rate used in correspondence between his ministry officials, the Port Klang Authority (PKA) and the Finance Ministry as the “special value” purportedly stipulated by the JPPH.
In the defence’s opening statement last Friday, Wong had pointed out that although the original ‘special value’ from the JPPH was RM21 psf, subsequent mentions of RM25 psf as the ‘special value’ were never corrected by the Finance Ministry, PKA, Transport Ministry or the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) until Dr Ling was charged.
“There is only one special value of the land which is RM21 psf and the defence will show that RM25 psf was the face value of the bonds as calculated by JPPH which excluded the six per cent coupon or interest rates,” he had told the court.
The trial continues tomorrow.