Big difference in land valuation

KUALA LUMPUR: Two plots of state land donated to the developer of the Penang Undersea Tunnel Project have been valued at RM300m by a private appraiser, a stark difference from the RM80m value they were given awarded by two government agents, the session court heard.

Private land expert Tan Gaik Eng, 71, director of GE Tan Valuers Sdn Bhd, said his company was hired by Ewein Bhd, founded by developer Datuk Ewe Swee Kheng, to put a price tag on the two properties.

Ewe, who was believed to have been the 15th prosecution witness in Lim Guan Eng’s corruption trial, died after falling from a luxury condominium in Jalan Kelawei, Penang on October 5 last year.

Tan said that for lot 702, his company received a call in June 2013 from Ewein Land Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Ewein Bhd.

“They asked us to value the land,” he said, adding that he had valued it at RM135 million based on various “comparables”.

As for lot 713, Tan said he received a call from Ewein Bhd to do the same in June 2015 and was valued at RM165 million.

Ewein Land has been appointed by the Zenith Beijing Urban Construction Group Sdn Bhd Consortium as the developer of the land.

Both plots were intended to be exchanged with Ewein Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd (lot 702) and Zenith Urban Development Sdn Bhd (lot 713) for mixed development projects.

In May, Penang Valuation and Property Services Department appraisers Zakariya Nayan and Nurul Asshima Aminullah testified that they valued Lot 702 at RM50 million and Lot 713 at RM30 million, claiming that there was no external coercion or interference.

Zakariya and Nurul Asshima said they carried out the appraisal of Lot 702 in December 2014 and Lot 713 in November 2016, after receiving requests from the Penang Lands and Mines Bureau.

They testified that they had independently appraised the land based on market value at the time.

Cross-examined by Lim’s attorney, Gobind Singh Deo, Tan said he was unaware of another appraisal report by state-appointed appraisers.

Gobind: Earlier you said you were unaware that there were state appraisal reports for lots 702 and 713. Does that mean you didn’t know both properties were appraised at 80? million RM combined by the State Valuation and Property Services Department?

Tan: I don’t know.

Gobind then reserved his cross-examination of the witness.

Another witness, Penang Lands and Mines Office Manager Norfadilah Kassim said she handled the process of transferring the two plots to Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd between December 2016 and March 2017.

She said both were freehold plots.

Earlier, the defense cross-examination of key witness Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli was postponed because he was ill.

Deputy Prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said the senior executive director of Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZC) contacted him in the morning and told him he had been granted four days sick leave until Friday.

Lim, 62, is facing four corruption charges relating to the proposed construction of an undersea tunnel and a twin road project in Penang.

For the first amended charge, Lim is accused of using his position as Chief Minister of Penang to corruptly receive RM3.3 million to help Zarul Ahmad’s company secure the project, worth RM6,341,383,702 between January 2011 and August 2017 at the office of the Chief Minister.

For the second amended charge, Lim is accused of soliciting 10% profit from Zarul Ahmad near The Gardens Hotel, Lingkaran Syed Putra in Mid Valley City to help the company be named for the same project in March 2011.

Lim is also charged with two counts of causing the surrender of two plots of Penang government land worth RM208.8 million by the developer linked to the undersea tunnel project on February 17 2015 and March 22, 2017 at the Penang Lands and Mines Office in Komtar.

The trial before Judge Azura Alwi will resume on September 29, with forensic experts called to determine whether a mobile phone containing a WhatsApp exchange between Zarul Ahmad and businessman G. Gnanaraja could be switched on.