Former transport minister Dr Ling Liong Sik cannot be held accountable for any mistakes, misleading information or inaccuracies in the preparation of the ministry's documents on the PKFZ land acquisition as he was not the ministry’s 'numero uno'.

NONEJustice Ahmadi Asnawi of the High Court in Kuala Lumpur said this was despite Ling (centre in photo) signing the documents.

"If any, the blame should be apportioned wholly and squarely upon the officers of the Transport Ministry who drafted and prepared the same.

"It turned out that the accused was not the numero uno (number one) of his ministry. He was the transporter," said the judge in his 43-page judgment in acquitting Ling of cheating the government on the multi-billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project.

Justice Ahmadi also said Ling played no part in the preparation of the documents for the cabinet meeting and this was further verified by other witnesses, including former human resources minister Fong Chan Onn and former Tourism Minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, who had testified in Ling’s defence.

Did the cabinet know about inclusion of interest?

The judgment provides an insight of the workings and running of the cabinet during the prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration. 

Central to the issue is whether the cabinet knew that the RM25 per square foot payment over a period of 10 to 15 years included the interest, as papers prepared by the Transport Ministry say it did not, while the Valuation and Property Services Department said interest was included.

NONEJustice Ahmadi said he had no reason to dismiss the testimonies of Fong, Abdul Kadir (right) and Mahathir as they were Ling’s fellow cabinet ministers at that time.

“The cabinet's final decision was based on the Transport Ministry's notes to the cabinet,” Justice Ahmadi said.

“Kadir, Mahathir and Fong all along said they knew that interest is payable over and above the purchase price of RM25 per square foot, based on the papers presented to them. They knew too and were aware that the cabinet made the decision to purchase the land on Nov 6, 2002, and interest is payable over and above the purchase price of RM25.”

There were numerous cabinet meetings, the judge added, and the purchase of the land was not decided in a single cabinet meeting.

Mahathir, Kadir and Fong not cheated

The court also noted that the prosecution has not adduced evidence in court to show that the element of interest was discussed at all in those notes throughout the years when the purchase of land was the subject matter at the cabinet meetings.

“Apart from the views of two (former ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department) Nazri Abdul Aziz and Mohd Effendi Norwawi (who were called by the prosecution), which were in direct opposition of Kadir, Mahathir and Fong, no other cabinet member at the material time was called by the prosecution to indicate their understanding of the said land purchase,” the judge said.

NONE“In light of the views expressed by Kadir, Mahathir and Fong (left), the benefit of the doubt must be construed in favour of the accused (Ling). Thus, in all probability when the cabinet decided to approve the purchase of the land by Port Klang Authority (PKA)  from Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB), the cabinet knew that interest is to be paid over and above the RM25psf.”

The judge said Kadir, Mahathir and Fong had testified that there could not be any concealment, deception, misrepresentation or inducement on the part of the accused in respect of the interest element payable.

“None of them harboured any belief that they have been misled, deceived, induced or cheated by the accused in the said purchase. None of the three defence witnesses (Kadir, Mahathir and Fong) were indeed induced, misled, deceived or cheated by the Transport Ministry's notes,” Justice Ahmadi said.

‘Nothing improbable with Ling's explanation’

Justice Ahmadi also said there was no evidence presented before the court as to who initiated the PKFZ project, and that Ling had testified he was not involved in the negotiations between PKA and KDSB.

In addition, the court added Ling had never seen the Transport Ministry's letter dated Oct 2, 2000 to KDSB adverting to the Ministry's purchase of the land.

“He (Ling) relied on his officers at the ministry in respect of any technical report and did not personally prepare any note or memorandum to the Cabinet in respect to the procurement or purchase of the land.

NONE“Ling also said he did not have any dealing or contact with KDSB and this was further verified by the company's chief executive officer Faizal Abdullah (right) that the accused did not have any interest in KDSB,” he said.

The judge also noted that Ling, during his testimony, had instructed his officers to follow the valuation carried out by Valuation and Property Services Department as his Ministry does not have the expertise, and no instructions were given to his officers not to comply with valuation.

The former MCA president also said he did not prepare the ministry's documents as the information were provided by his officers.

“Ling said he would have corrected any letter given to Mahathir who was also finance minister (then), had he known it was not correct or misleading.

“Neither of his officers informed him the information was wrong, misleading and had omitted material facts. Neither did he lodge any report to suggest the ministry's letter sent to Mahathir dated April 2, 2002 was wrong and that he had been misled,” said Ahmadi.

Hence the court, the judge said, accepted Ling's explanation which was unchallenged by the prosecution.

NONE“I am satisfied and accept Ling's explanation that he did not have any intention to cheat, deceive or misled Mahathir (left) by sending a Transport Ministry's letter dated June 29, 2002. Mahathir testified he was not cheated or deceived as finance minister as a result of the letter or its annexures,” he said.

“Mahathir also did not receive any complaint from his officers in Finance Ministry or the Valuation Department or any member of the Cabinet that the letter was false, misleading and contained material omissions,” he said.

Justice Ahmadi said there was nothing improbable with Ling's explanation.

“Having considered Ling's conduct, in my view it weighs heavily to negate the presence of guilty knowledge, intention or dishonesty on the part of the land purchase,” he said.-malaysiakini