Who is G Gnanaraja in the Penang undersea tunnel project

SOURCE: Malaysiakini | Published 15 Aug 2020, 10:05 am Modified 15 Aug 2020, 8:23 pm

Amid the corruption allegations surrounding the Penang undersea tunnel project, one of the interesting names that have emerged is that of the businessperson “Datuk Seri” G Gnanaraja.

The RM6.3 billion project has also seen former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng recently charged in court on accusations of abusing his position to solicit a 10 percent cut of the value of the project and receiving RM3.3 million in bribes.

Lim has pleaded not guilty and claimed trial to the charges.

Two years ago, Gnanaraja was himself arrested on Feb 27, 2018 by the MACC on allegations of receiving RM19 million in bribes to help “settle” an investigation on the project by the anti-corruption agency.

The money supposedly came from Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd, a firm led by Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli that is part of a consortium that was awarded the contract to build the tunnel.

Gnanaraja was charged at the Shah Alam Sessions Court on April 3, 2019 for allegedly deceiving Zarul on three occasions in 2017 into believing that he has political connections that could help stop the MACC investigation against him.

For the first charge, Gnanaraja was accused of deceiving Zarul into paying him RM2 million at Eastin Hotel, Selangor, sometime in July 2017. For the second charge, he was accused of deceiving Zarul into transferring RM15 million to him through a CIMB Bank branch at KLCC in the same month.

For the third charge, Gnanaraja is accused of committing the same offence by deceiving Zarul into paying an additional RM2 million at Eastin Hotel, Selangor, sometime in August 2017.

Gnanaraja pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

Money-laundering charges

Five days later, on April 8, 2019, Gnanaraja was brought to the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court to face an additional 68 charges of money laundering amounting to RM11.4 million.

The money was allegedly transferred from Bumi Muhibah Capital Holding Sdn Bhd’s account to various other accounts including the Home Ministry, Internal Revenue Board (IRB), and other companies and individuals.

The accused is said to be director and owner of Bumi Muhibah and had allegedly transferred RM2.2 million in illicit funds to the Home Ministry on Sept 19, 2017.

He was also accused of paying RM108,580.80 in illicit funds by cheque to Zenith Consulting Services’ account on Oct 25, 2017, and RM15,614.70 to the IRB on Jan 15, 2018.

The charges implicated two government agencies – the Home Ministry and the IRB – 26 companies, including Zenith Consulting and 10 individuals.

The 10 individuals are Tan Su Cheng, You Hui Koon, Koh Yee Phok, Lim Voi Heng, Lee Sue Wee, Teh Eng Soon, S Jeewanathan, K Thiagu, K Boohalan, and Kee Bee Sim.

All offences were allegedly committed at CIMB Bank’s KLCC branch at Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, between July 28, 2017, and Jan 18, 2018.

Gnanaraja also pleaded not guilty to all these charges.

Showbiz involvement

Gnanaraja, 39, was also known as “Dato Sri G” or “DSG”, having being awarded the “Datuk Seri” title from the Pahang palace in March 2014.

However, the palace has reportedly revoked the award on March 13, 2019, after Gnanaraja was charged for cheating Zarul of RM19 million.

In March 2018, a photograph (above) showing Lim Guan Eng and Gnanaraja together raised eyebrows when it became widely circulated. However, Lim denied knowing Gnanaraja personally.

Instead, the Chief Minister’s Office said many people have taken photos with Lim as a memento since the latter is a prominent public figure and Lim does not remember how many or where the photos were taken.

Apart from being president of the agricultural entrepreneurs association Agro Malaysia, Gnanaraja had also starred in a film trailer on YouTube titled “G the Movie Official Teaser” in 2017.

The 4-minute trailer depicted Gnanaraja together with a female actress in James Bond-style action and romantic scenes. However, checks by Malaysiakini failed to locate the full movie.

In addition, Gnanaraja has been active on social media and has 621,000 followers on Instagram.

Gnanaraja was married to Geethanjali G in February 2012, who is well-known in the Tamil-speaking community and has her own social media following. The couple has twin boys.

In 2016, Geethanjali’s appointment as then Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid’s special media advisor drew controversy. The appointment was rescinded in less than 24 hours, but the Education Ministry did not disclose the reason for the about-turn.

‘10 most powerful women’

Geethanjali, too, has a colourful life – she was a Miss Malaysia Universe 2009 finalist and had worked as a radio announcer.

In 2013, she appeared in an advertorial in The Star that listed her as among 10 most powerful women in Malaysia that year.

Among those on the list were Rosmah Mansor, Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Michelle Yeoh, Nurul Izzah Anwar, and Marina Mahathir.

There was speculation that Geethanjali or her promotion and production company G Global Media had created the list and paid for it to be advertised in The Star to create publicity for herself.

Geethanjali has denied the accusation.

In November 2016, the then MIC treasurer-general S Vell Paari claimed that Gnanaraja and Geethanjali had masterminded an investment scam that duped investors into sending millions of ringgit into Yayasan Usaha Ventures Malaysia’s bank account.

According to Vell Paari, the couple had name-dropped then prime minister Najib Abdul Razak and his wife Rosmah as part of the alleged scam.

However, both Gnanaraja and Geethanjali denied the allegation in a joint statement.

Watch this space for further developments in the intriguing world of “Dato Sri G”. 

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