THE mainstream media’s highlighting of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in picture with a businessman who allegedly received money from the developer of the Penang undersea tunnel is “disgusting”, Lim’s office said today.
In a statement, the chief minister’s office slammed “Barisan Nasional newspapers” for playing up the photo of and calling it “proof” that Lim was the businessman’s buddy and connected to a payment of RM19 million in bribe money.
Lim had instructed his lawyers to study the legal implications of the reports, it said.
“This is not only ridiculous but a disgusting attempt to smear the Penang chief minister.
“As a public figure the chief minister has taken many photographs with many personalities and (he) cannot recall how many times or where each and every photograph was taken.
“Does taking a photo with a person make the person a buddy?” the statement read.
It said the businessman, who was the director of a public listed company, was instead “closely connected to BN leaders”.
“If there are photos of him with top BN leaders, would it make the top BN leaders complicit in the payout of RM22 million?
“What is clear is that those involved in the RM22 million payout are closely linked to top BN leaders.”
It said the chief minister had had his photos taken with a Penang-based businessman linked to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal.
The same businessman had previously launched a campaign to unseat Lim in his state constituency Air Putih in the 2013 general election, allegedly using RM40 million of 1MDB’s money, it said
“To use BN’s perverse logic, does this mean that the chief minister is also a buddy of this businessman and connected to 1MDB?
“BN and its newspapers, including a few Chinese newspapers, have to do better than rely on one photograph, to try to spin the tall tale that the Penang chief minister is a buddy of the Indian businessman.”
The photo of Lim, who is DAP secretary-general and Pakatan Harapan deputy president, and the businessman was widely circulated over the weekend and made the evening news on TV.
The businessman had allegedly received RM19 million from Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd for “consultancy services” to stop the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission from investigating on the tunnel and highways project.
Consortium Zenith won the open tender to undertake the project mooted by the Penang government in 2013.
In 2016, MACC opened an investigation into the project following allegations of graft.
It was reported that Consortium Zenith wanted the RM19 million back in July last year because the businessman had failed to deliver what he promised.
The businessman was recently arrested by MACC, which seized more than RM7.5 million of his assets. He has since been released on bail.
MACC also picked up another businessman who alleged received RM3 million for similar consultancy work related to the tunnel and highways project.
When the controversy broke late last month, Lim said the state government was in the dark about the RM22 million paid.
Penang state secretary Farizan Darus has since written a letter to Consortium Zenith chief Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli for an explanation.
The state government is still awaiting a full report from Consortium Zenith.