How the big time crooks from UMNO must have held their sides with laughter to see Lim Guan Eng hauled up over a paltry charge of allegedly conspiring to skim a 10% “profit bribe” plus another alleged RM3.3 million supposedly pocketed in return for his government having awarded (through open tender) a multi-billion dollar project.
Imagine taking so little and imagine waiting until profits come in to demand the gratification – after all, ten years on and the project has not yet got going, so no 10%! Any UMNO practitioner worth their salt would have got themselves a fat percentage up front – look at Rosmah and the solar power project for Sarawak schools.
Even better there is that simple, run-of-the-mill practice of inflating the contract to accommodate all the kickbacks. Najib is a master in how to do that one – this DAP amateur should have asked him.
For example, with the East Coast Rail Link the former UMNO prime minister cum finance minister simply doubled the contract from RM30 billion to RM60 billion and got the Chinese state contractor to backhand him most of the difference.
Likewise the inflated Sabah pipeline projects which Najib’s finance ministry illegally paid 80% upfront, so that a billion dollars could immediately be channelled back through Kuwait and then the Seychelles through to his 1MDB creditors in Abu Dhabi.
That’s the way you do it, “money for nothing” as the popular lyric goes. If Lim Guan Eng had alternatively decided to use the ‘foundation’ scam, well it sure seems like the present UMNO boss (Najib’s successor Zahid Hamidi) could have taught him a thing or two about managing that one!
No wonder then that this opposition leader’s oh-so-ordinary wife (she has to WORK for a living after all) has always been kitted out so dowdily. No Parisienne couture for simple Betty Chew with her market stall handbags and dreary working woman’s shoes.
And if political success is to be measured by the grandeur of one’s home and holidays, well we have all seen the interior of the Najib household (Netflix ‘Dirty Money’) with its echoing corridors and gilt sofas in Kuala Lumpur’s poshest area.
Compare that palace to the modest two story Penang bungalow inhabited by this ‘failed’ couple. Also, the total absence of photos of them enjoying super-yacht holidays all over the Med or 7 star luxury accommodation in the likes of Beverley Hills, let alone buying up half Harrods and the Hong Kong jewellery stores.
Nonetheless, it is this paltry home, which the couple rented for a few years before they finally got a mortgage and put the money down to buy, that is of course at the centre of the other much feted corruption charge, reported years ago to the MACC by UMNO supporters from “Najib’s Gang” and now being ‘re-chauffe’d’ to haul them through the courts.
As everyone knows the market price of a home is actually what someone is prepared to buy it for and what the seller is prepared to take. There are clearly plenty of benefits to the vendor in selling to existing long term tenants for a clear profit (RM300,000) as opposed to chucking those tenants out and risking the market. Especially if they were celebrity friends you might wish to boast about.
However, despite the UMNO persons who filed the report having admitted they only did so after hearing ill-founded accusations about the ‘low price’ from political enemies of the DAP leader, the MACC have now built a case of elaborate conspiracy against these two parties to the transaction.
The allegation is that Lim Guan Eng and his wife achieved a cheaper deal on the property than their friend the vendor might have managed to get on the open market (might being the operative word) in return for an inducement – rather than simply telling the vendor the maximum price they could afford and asking if she would accept it.
Let’s not forget in all this, the couple had to get a big mortgage to meet the not insubstantial RM2.9 million on the house – it was hardly for free nor did the vendor sell at a loss, far from it. So, what was the inducement?
What the MACC have alleged is that in return for the ‘cheaper’ deal the couple gained on the house Lim Guan Eng a year later as the head of Penang’s development authority allowed a company involving the vendor to put in a construction proposal on agricultural land.
Do they have evidence there was a conspiracy here and that the couple had planned to remunerate the vendor in this backdoor manner through abuse of power? Because, if there are no written agreements, recordings or witnesses to the alleged scheme such a conspiracy would be hard to prove at the best of times.
However, even what appears to have been mere speculation has been fatally undermined, because in the event Penang’s open tendering and planning process (overseen by Lim Guan Eng himself) threw out the vendor’s company proposal and the land remains to grow rice and vegetables as before.
As any UMNO warlord could surely have told this bunch of amateurs if you take such a bribe, then you need to deliver on the project. The vendor did not gain benefit from the deal.
So, unless the vendor has turned prosecution witness to denounce her former tenants for having accepted her deal on the house for ‘planning favours’ but then ‘welshed’ on the agreement, it would seem hard to fathom what evidence there could be to find the couple guilty of conspiring to abuse their power for money.
Likewise, the tunnel farrago. There is still no tunnel so there has been no payment of “10 profit bribe”. The chap on whose testimony the accusations rely in this separate case (an UMNO member and convicted fraudster according to reports by Lim Guan Eng’s own fiercest critics) has admitted to paying politicians left right and centre to gain their favour towards his business, but says he has no way to prove these alleged cash payments.
Meanwhile, Lim Guan Eng has queried what evidence the MACC have found of him being ever in possession of unexplained cash that might have come from such payments, because he says he was never questioned over any such amounts and doesn’t have them?
The couple’s home was raided but the court was presented with no details of stashes of cash or valuables or hefty bank accounts, and they say they were never questioned over any alleged suspicious sums.
So, as we are yet again talking about an alleged conspiracy that never delivered on its alleged promise, what evidence does the MACC propose to produce to stand up their tunnel story?
The contractor says he offered the ‘profit bribe’ alone in a car with Lim Guan Eng, but that the politician made no response….. so no recording is likely to be of help. The contractor also says that he later rescinded the offer after being told there would be an open tender, but still received no comment from Lim Guan Eng.
Yet, there was an indication in court today that the MACC plan to bring as evidence three separate payments made to Betty Chiew, the lawyer wife of Lim Guan Eng, totalling a relatively paltry RM372,000. At last an actual money payment, but sadly not even enough to buy a single Birkin handbag!
Is this the elusive evidence on which the MACC and new AG will hang their case?
Betty Chew is a practising lawyer. She has said these payments which the MACC have chosen to describe as “money laundering” were professional fees. If so, she will have documents to support those payments as lawyers always do, given they charge an awful lot (Hadi Awang’s London lawyers charged him in excess of RM2 million for handling his failed case against Sarawak Report, for example, and they will have detailed every penny).
Who wins this argument will be learned in court. It seems either the MACC will be alleging that the vendor of the home paid Betty Chiew legal fees for a non-existent purpose (as a way of increasing the benefit of the allegedly below market price for the property) or the MACC are alleging the money paid to Betty Chiew was from a criminal source, which she ought not to have accepted.
If it is the latter then one wonders why criminal proceedings relating to that crime have not also been initiated against the person alleged to have paid Betty Chiew (one assumes the vendor). On the other hand, if it is the former then the MACC must prove the legal work performed by Betty Chiew was a bogus front for the alleged conspiracy to gain a development opportunity – good luck to them given that in the end the vendor/ commissioner of the work appears to have got nothing for their pains.
As all Malaysia knows this is a case that has already been thrown out of court once for lack of evidence and it is not hard to see why. So, the grounds on which the new AG has sanctioned this return to prosecution must involve new evidence – according to the law that is. However, Malaysians must also bear in mind that they have a return of UMNO behind the case and that the brother of the same AG has just been appointed Speaker of Parliament also by ignoring the due process of the law.
So, unless there is hidden new evidence to transform this case, the signs are that it has been brought for the very reasons almost everyone suspects, namely politics and vengeance as UMNO seeks anything with which to prosecute and attack the clean reputation of their political opponents.
In the long run, as the facts are tested in the courts, this is a case that is likely to backfire as it has before. But, if the purpose is merely finding mud to sling over the next few months as Najib appeals his billion dollar convictions and UMNO pushes for elections then that purpose will have been served.