Day #12 – Witness #11: Datuk Faiza Zulkifli, Former Penang Legal Advisor (LA)

Story 1: Preliminary agreement between CZ-BUCG and Penang govt for mega project drafted by private lawyers, bypassed state legal advisor’s office.

SOURCE: Malay Mail, Friday, 12 Nov 2021 02:38 PM MYT


A private legal firm was appointed to draft a preliminary contract between Consortium Zenith-Beijing Urban Construction Group (CZ-BUCG) and the Penang state government without it ever being referred to the state government legal advisor’s (PUN) office, the Sessions Court was told today.

Former Penang PUN Datuk Faiza Zulkifli, when testifying as the 11th prosecution in Lim Guan Eng’s undersea tunnel corruption trial, said it was Lim as the then chief minister who had made the executive decision to appoint legal firm Lee Hishamuddin Allen & Gledhill to draft the contract. 

Faizah then explained, during examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor Farah Yasmin Salleh, that state governments appointing private legal firms for official matters is permitted and within the law, but said the process should have included the PUN office to ensure the interests of the state is prioritised. 

“If the chief minister decides to appoint any private lawyers, he must impress upon them their responsibility in safeguarding the priorities of the state government and for it to be legally accurate. 

“All agreements that involve the Pulau Pinang state government as a party which will be signed by the state government should, by right, be referred to the PUN’s office for checks and approvals to ensure the agreement is legally correct.

“For this Preliminary Agreement, no references were ever made to me by the private lawyers appointed by the Preliminary Agreement Terms and Conditions Negotiations Committee. I was also never given a draft during the preparations of the Preliminary Agreement,” Faiza testified in court today. 

Faiza testified how she as the PUN is capable of drafting a similar preliminary agreement intended for the mega project and that all previous such agreements for state government projects had gone through the vetting of her department. 

When presented with the implicated Preliminary Agreement contract in court, Faiza then testified how it contained “major errors” concerning land parcels that were to be exchanged with the developer. 

Her opinion, however, was based on what she noticed when viewing the document in court alone and she admitted that she was not privy to the exact details within the agreement. 

The supposed errors were related to the name of land parcels set to be given to the CZ-BUCG in exchange for funding the mega project, with Faiza saying she would have spotted the mistakes had she been tasked with the responsibility. 

“This is a major mistake because it relates to the subject matter which is exchanging land parcels for the preliminary agreement, where anyone who is supposed to check the agreement should have made sure which are the exact land parcels to be exchanged. 

“I am very, very meticulous with my work, just as all other Penang state government officials, so if I had seen this I would have made sure this would not happen,” she said. 

Later during cross-examination, Faiza’s claim of being unaware of the Preliminary Agreement was questioned by defence counsel Gobind Singh, who pointed out how she was present during state executive council meetings where the agreement with CZ-BUCG was discussed. 

The witness agreed, and also affirmed how the decision to appoint private lawyers for official state matters should have first obtained the approval of her office, something which she admittedly did not insist on from the state government. 

“Because I was of the impression that there was a private legal firm appointed and paid to perform a duty and there was the Preliminary Agreement Terms and Conditions Negotiations Committee, to which in my view both could have safeguarded the interests of the state government and form the agreement,” she said when asked to explain why she did not question the appointment of private lawyers. 

Earlier in proceedings, Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission enforcer Syed Muhammad Fadzli Syed Hussin took the stand as the 10th prosecution witness, where he confirmed he was told of the death of a witness for this case, one Datuk Ewe Swee Kheng.

Ewe, 53, died on October 5 after falling from a luxury condominium in Jalan Kelawai, Penang.

The case had been classified as sudden death after the post-mortem found Ewe to have died from multiple injuries consistent with a fall from height.

In this trial, Lim faces four charges, one under Section 16(a)(A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act for having allegedly solicited kickbacks of 10 per cent of future profits from Zarul as a reward to help the latter’s company secure the project in March 2011, as the then CM.

He is also facing a charge under Section 23(1) of the same Act for allegedly receiving RM3.3 million in kickbacks from Zarul between January 2011 and October 2017 for allegedly helping the latter’s company secure the mega project.

The trial before judge Azura Alwi continues on November 29.

Story 2: Law firm made big mistakes on land parcels to be given away

SOURCE: NST November 12, 2021 @ 4:34pm

By Sharanjit Singh

KUALA LUMPUR: The corruption trial involving Lim Guan Eng today saw his lawyer going on the offensive against the former Penang chief minister’s state legal advisor (LA), even branding her a liar as he tried to exonerate his client of blame.

Today’s proceedings also heard how a private law firm appointed by Lim’s administration had committed some major mistakes in the preliminary agreement which was signed with a company undertaking the Penang undersea tunnel project.

The mistakes involved parcels of state land which were wrongly identified to be swapped as part of a deal for the project to take off.

Former Penang Legal Advisor (LA) Datuk Faiza Zulkifli said she never got to see the agreement before or after it was prepared by the law firm.

Faiza said it was her responsibility as the LA to scrutinise legal documents and agreements in order to protect the government’s interests.

However, in this case she said the responsibility was delegated to the private law firm.

The former magistrate, who served under Lim’s administration as the state legal advisor from 2007 until 2013, said the state normally only appointed private legal firms to handle civil cases and not when it came to agreements involving projects.

To a question from Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, Faiza said the mistake in the agreement was a big one as it involved the transfer of state land.

“If I had been given the opportunity to go through this agreement I would have ensured such a mistake did not occur.

“I am very thorough and I would have ensured that the state government’s interests were protected,” she said.

Earlier, Faiza said she was also unaware of the contents of a second Memorandum of Understanding which had been signed by the state government and the Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) in April 2011.

However, her testimony did not sit well with Lim’s lead counsel Gobind Singh Deo and he immediately put Faiza in his crosshairs during the cross examination.

Accusing the 61-year-old retiree of lying, Gobind zoomed in on Faiza’s statement that it was her responsibility to protect the state government’s interests.

He questioned her at length on why she never bothered to check on the contents of the second MoU and also go through the preliminary agreement prepared by the private law firm.

However, Faiza replied that she always thought that the contents of the second MoU were the same with the one she prepared in the first MoU signed by the state and BUCG.

On the preliminary agreement, she said the state government had delegated the responsibility to the private law firm.

Gobind: So you were not proactive in protecting the state’s interests

Faiza: I disagree. A private law firm was appointed and paid for it. There was also a state government committee formed for this.

Gobind: I put it to you that your statement of not being consulted and that you did not know about it (second MoU) is not true.

Faiza: I disagree.

Lim is accused of soliciting kickbacks from a company awarded the tunnel project.

He is accused of soliciting gratification to help Consortium Zenith BUCG (CZBUCG) secure a contract for the undersea tunnel project.

He also faces accusation of using his position as the then Penang chief minister to receive RM3.3 million in gratification for himself as an inducement for helping the company to secure the RM6.3 billion project.

The former Finance Minister also faces two counts of causing two plots of land belonging to the Penang government worth RM208.8 million to be transferred to two companies linked to the tunnel project.

The trial before Sessions Court Judge Azura Alwi will continue on Nov 29.

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