PKFZ: Defence tenders Hwa Beng’s book as evidence
KUALA LUMPUR, July 13 — Former Port Klang Authority (PKA) chairman Datuk Lee Hwa Beng’s book on the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal was tendered to the High Court today as evidence in Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik’s cheating trial.
Dr Ling’s lawyer Wong Kian Kheong, who tendered the book when questioning his client this afternoon, had told the court last week that the book, “PKFZ: A Nation’s Trust — Betrayed”, could harm his client’s case.
He pointed out today that Lee had only released the book after he had testified in court as a witness for the prosecution.
“I am aware that he (Lee) wrote a book,” Dr Ling said when questioned by Wong during examination-in-chief.
When kicking off the defence’s case last Friday, Wong had listed Lee’s book as one of the three reasons behind his contention that Dr Ling has been denied a fair trial and his constitutional rights under Articles 5(1) and 8(1) of the Federal Constitution.
“The adverse publicity has created a substantial risk of prejudice against Tun Ling that [he] will not be able to receive a fair trial,” he had said, noting that the book was only published after Dr Ling’s defence was called in March this year.
Wong added that Dr Ling had been accused of an alleged wrongdoing only after he had left government in May 2003.
As such, he argued that official documents relating to the PKFZ project are classified under the Official Secrets Act 1972 and Dr Ling was no longer allowed access to them as he had retired.
“In the circumstances, Tun Ling’s defence has been seriously prejudiced,” he said.
Wong added that adverse findings made by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in its probe on PKFZ would also pose an obstacle to Dr Ling’s right to a fair trial.
This, he said, was despite the findings being against various individuals in the Transport Ministry and PKA, and not against Dr Ling.
Dr Ling took to the witness stand for the first time last week to defend himself against charges of cheating the government over the purchase of land for the PKFZ project, which is said to have resulted in multibillion ringgit losses for the government.
The former MCA president, who served out a 17-year term in the Transport Ministry until 2003, also faces two alternative charges of deceiving the Cabinet into believing that the terms of purchase — at RM25 psf and 7.5 per cent interest — were acknowledged and agreed to by Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) despite knowing that there was no such agreement.
Lee’s book “PKFZ: A Nation’s Trust — Betrayed”, which was released in April, chronicles the story of the project first mooted in 1997 and includes insights from his three years as PKA boss when the controversy erupted, as well as his role in the investigations.
In an interview with The Malaysian Insider a few days before the book’s launch, the former Subang Jaya assemblyman had said that despite five years of exposes on the RM12.5 billion PKFZ scandal, the authorities have only hit the “tip of the iceberg”.
“Outside of PKA, a lot of things happened. It might come out in the court cases. OC Phang’s trial will probably reveal even more facts,” Lee said of the former PKA general manager who served from 1997 to 2008, when the cost of the project ballooned from RM1.1 billion to RM4.6 billion.
She is currently on trial for three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) involving over RM254 million related to the PKFZ.
“In the Transport Ministry, there are so many things that happened, which we won’t know about, that might not be revealed in the court cases. Only the police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) have the power to dig (these) out.
“The six that are on trial were not charged with corruption. Without that, the money trail won’t come out,” he said, referring to the prosecution of the half dozen individuals including two former transport ministers.
The project, initially estimated at RM1.1 billion after it was mooted by then transport minister Dr Ling in 1997, more than quadrupled in cost to RM4.6 billion by 2007.
A position review by top accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) revealed in 2009 that the total cost, including interests from debt repayments, could reach RM12.5 billion.
Since December 2009, six individuals have been charged in court including ex-MCA president Dr Ling, and his successor as transport minister, former MCA deputy chief Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy. Both are accused of lying to the Cabinet.