Defence counsel says the former transport minister did not instruct officers to conceal facts on the PKFZ project.
KUALA LUMPUR: Former transport minister Dr Ling Liong Sik did not have any intention to deceive the Cabinet as he did not instruct his officers to conceal facts pertaining to the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project, the High Court here was told today.
In his defence opening speech, counsel Wong Kian Kheong said, at all material times, Ling had directed the officers in the ministry and Port Klang Authority (PKA) to adhere to Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) valuation, with regard to the procurement of the land, be it by way of compulsory acquisition or direct purchase.
He said that two letters from Ling to former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, dated April 3, 2002 and June 29, 2002, as well as the ministry’s note to the Cabinet were prepared by ministry officers.
“Ling did not have any intention to deceive the Cabinet because he acted in accordance with the recommendations and advice of MOT [ministry of transport] officers.
“Ling did not, at any time, instruct, direct or request MOT’s officers to conceal, misrepresent and mislead any fact in their preparation of two letters for Tun Mahathir and two ‘nota ringkasan daripada Ling berkenaan pengambilan balik tanah di Pulau Indah’ (two summary notes from Ling involving the takeover of the land in Pulau Indah) dated Oct 29, 2002.
“No one ever informed Ling that the letters, memorandum or any form of documentation was wrong, flawed or inaccurate in any way,” he said in the first day of the trial at the defence stage.
Wong said the calculation on the land price and method of purchase were highly technical.
“Such calculations involved coupon or interest rate, discounted cash flow (DCF) target rate, bond issuance, non-payment of interest for a certain number of years, accrued interest and promissory note, something which a lay person would not be able to grasp easily.
“Senior officers from the MOT, PKA and Ministry of Finance (MOF) were confused by the highly technical nature of the financing scheme of the land, while the letter from a JPPH officer to MOT, dated Sept 29, 2000 gave the land a ‘special value’ of RM21 per sq ft (psf).
Not the sole reason
“Barely three days later, former MOT Maritime Division principal assistant secretary P Chandrasekaran wrote a letter to Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB), stating the “special value” of the land as RM25 psf.
“The defence will show that from that point in time, the majority of letters, memos (memoranda) and minutes of meetings referred to the ‘special value’ of the land as RM25 psf. No correction was made by MOT, PKA, MOF or Economic Planning Unit (EPU), saying that RM25 psf was not the ‘special value’ until Ling was charged,” he said.
Wong said there was only one special value of the land which was RM21 psf and the defence would show that RM25 psf in the letter from the JPPH officer to MOT was the “face value” of the bonds, as calculated by JPPH which excluded the 6% coupon or interest rates.
He said MOF had full knowledge of valuations given by JPPH in the land because all valuations concerning the land, be it by way of compulsory acquisition or direct purchase, were prepared by JPPH, a technical department under MOF.
He added that at all material times, MOF was actively involved in the negotiations with KDSB as regard the procurement of the land, whether at the level of MOF or PKA.
“The Cabinet took into account other factors before deciding to purchase the land from KDSB. In other words, JPPH’s valuation was not the sole or decisive reason why the Cabinet decided to give its consent to PKA’s purchase of the land.
“Ling did not, at any time, favour KDSB or acted as KDSB’s ‘mouth-piece’. Ling has never met or had any dealing with KDSB and any director or employee of KDSB,” he said.
Ling, who was transport minister for 17 years from 1986, is charged with cheating the government by not disclosing to the Cabinet an additional interest rate of 7.5% per annum on the purchase price of the land for the PKFZ project, which had been fixed at RM1,088,456,000 by the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH), based on RM25 per sq ft (psf), inclusive of the coupon/interest rates.
‘Ling denied fair trial’
He also faces two alternative (amended) charges of cheating and intentionally not disclosing to the Cabinet, that the 7.5% per annum was an additional interest rate on the land price.
He is alleged to have committed the offences at the fourth floor of the Prime Minister’s Office, Perdana Putra building in Putrajaya, between Sept 25 and Nov 6, 2002.
The first charge, under Section 418 of the Penal Code, carries a penalty of up to seven years jail or a fine, or both, upon conviction while the two alternative (amended) charges, under Section 417 of the Penal Code, carry a penalty of up to five years’ jail or a fine, or both, upon conviction.
He was charged on July 29, 2010 and was on a three-month trial from Aug 1, last year.
Earlier, Wong also said that Ling was denied a fair trial and his constitutional rights under Articles 5(1) and 8(1) of the Federal Constitution had been infringed.
“The charges concern events that took place between 1999 until 2002. Ling stepped down as minister in May 2003. Official documents relating to the PKFZ project are classified under the Official Secrets Act 1972, and Ling does not have any document after his retirement.
“Nor could Ling have access to records other than those provided by the prosecution for purpose of preparing his defence. In such circumstances, Ling’s defence has been seriously prejudiced.
“Adverse findings were made by the Public Accounts Committee against various individuals in MOT and PKA (not against Ling) concerning the purchase of the land. Such adverse revelations by a public inquiry is clearly an obstacle to fair trial,” he said.
The hearing before Justice Ahmadi Asnawi continues on Monday.