Final property value can differ, ex-Citibank officer tells LGE trial

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has been charged with using his public office to obtain gratification for himself and his wife.

GEORGE TOWN: A witness in the corruption trial of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng today said it was possible for the final value of a property to differ from the initial value due to the time it takes to finalise the sale.

Lim Wern Shern, who was once a sales manager in Citibank’s mortgage department, agreed with Guan Eng’s counsel Gobind Singh Deo that it was not unusual for more time, ranging between six and 12 months, to be taken to formalise the sale and purchase agreement.

“In my experience, there are several reasons why more time is needed for an agreement to be completed,” he said.

Wern Shern is the 12th witness to testify in the graft trial before Justice Hadhariah Syed Ismail, which entered its second day today.

In his witness statement earlier, Wern Shern said Guan Eng’s wife, Betty Chew, had contacted him about applying for a loan to buy the house. He said the amount applied for was RM2.1 million.

In September 2013, he said, Chew handed back the application form, together with the supporting documents to be processed by Citibank.

Wern Shern, who is now a certified financial planner, said on Dec 18, 2013, Guan Eng had signed the agreement at his office in Komtar.

However, the sale did not proceed and the latter’s lawyer wrote to Citibank not long after to cancel the application.

Wern Shern also told the court that the RM2.8 million price tag for the bungalow had been agreed on before the loan application.

However, Wern Shern added that he did not know when the price was fixed.

He said on June 5, 2015, Chew had contacted him again to restart the loan application process with Citibank. He then went to her office with new forms.

The bank later approved the loan of RM2.1 million, with a monthly repayment of RM16,172.39 for a period of 15 years.

Guan Eng, 57, was charged on June 30, 2016, with using his public office to obtain gratification for himself and his wife by approving an application by Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd (MESB) to convert agricultural land for residential purposes.

He was also alleged to have used his position to obtain gratification by purchasing a bungalow from businesswoman Phang Li Koon for RM2.8 million, which is below the property’s market value of RM4.27 million, on July 28, 2015.

Phang was charged with abetment. Both Guan Eng and Phang have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The prosecution, led by deputy public prosecutor Masri Mohd Daud, is expected to call in 55 witnesses throughout the trial.