First: Najib on leave until 10 August
KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will go on leave overseas from today until Aug 10, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.
The two-paragraph statement said that throughout the period, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin would perform the duties of the prime minister.
Second: VIP guest - Ling Liong Sik charged in court over two cheating counts in PKFZ
FULL REPORT PUTRAJAYA: Former transport minister and MCA president Dr Ling Liong Sik has been charged in connection with the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal. The 67-year-old medical doctor-turned-politician arrived at the Kajang Sessions Court, located here, at 4.45pm and appeared calm when swarmed by press photographers.
Clad in a striped shirt, he was accompanied by his wife Ena and two sons.
He pleaded not guilty to two charges under Sections 417 and 418 of the Penal Code for cheating. If found guilty, Ling could face a jail term.
Sessions Court Judge Suzana Hussin then set bail at RM1 million and mention was fixed for Sept 3.
Ling, who requested time to post bail, was released on a personal bond. The former MCA president, who is being represented by counsel RR Sethu, would pay the amount at the Sessions Court tomorrow.
Asked if he was confident in fighting the case, he replied, "In the Palace of Justice you must feel confident."
Ling was charged under Section 418 for allegedly "misleading the Cabinet between Sept 25 and Nov 6, 2002 into agreeing to purchase 999.5 acres of land on Pulau Indah for a project that is now known as PKFZ, at a price of RM25psf on a deferred payment method for a 15-year period, at an interest rate of 7.5 percent". The cumulative interest paid would total RM720 million at the end of the repayment period.
He was also charged under Section 417 for the same offence.
'Accused withheld information'
According to the charge sheet, the Finance Ministry had already valued the land at RM25psf inclusive of compounded interest -- and this fact was withheld by the accused from the Cabinet.
Earlier, Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail and three DPPs, including head of prosecution Tun Abdul Majid Hamzah, arrived at the court around 4pm but declined to speak to the scores of journalists camping there since morning after getting wind that a VIP would be charged.
Ling, a long-time Cabinet minister, was also a close associate of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He was elected MP for the Mata Kuching constituency in 1974. He successfully defended his position in 1978 and 1982. In 1986, he was elected as the MP for Labis and defended his seat in three subsequent general elections. The sixth MCA president helmed the party for 17 years until his retirement in 2003.
In 1986, he was appointed transport minister. Prior to that, he had held the position of parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Local Government and Federal Territory, deputy information minister, deputy finance minister and deputy education minister.
Ling is the biggest name to be hauled up over the RM4.6 billion PKFZ scandal thus far.
The PKFZ project, a brainchild of the MCA-nominee headed Port Klang Authority, was initiated by Ling when he was the transport minister in 1999.
Late last year, former PKA general manager OC Phang and three others were charged with criminal breach of trust (CBT) and cheating by making false claims.
The PKFZ is located on a 405-hectare site in Pulau Indah near West Port, Port Klang. It comprises 256 hectares of open space for factories/warehouses, 512 light industrial lots and 500,000 sq ft of office space for rent, a 135-room hotel and an exhibition centre.
The Public Accounts Committee had investigated the project and had recommended that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and police investigate former transport minister Chan Kong Choy and Phang for CBT.
Both Ling and Chan are accused of having played a role in the ballooning cost of the project, including giving out letters of support to help finance the project.
Business and politics
Ling's tenure as the MCA president was also riddled with trouble following a leadership tussle involving his then deputy Lim Ah Lek. Supporters of the two are still fighting it out to take control of the party.
His political life was also tainted with accusations that he had used his position and connections, especially through his protege Soh Chee Wen, to help his son Hee Leong in the corporate world.
Hee Leong was said to have embarked on corporate acquisitions exceeding RM1.2 billion in a matter of months at the age of 27, with the help of his father and Soh.
Subsequent investigations against Ling was dropped as he was said to have the protection of Mahathir at that time.
However, Soh was made to pay the price for the corporate raids, resulting in a fallout between Ling and the former.
Political pundits at that time speculated that Soh was targeted as he was seen to be close to Mahathir's foe Anwar Ibrahim.
Soh, in an interview with Malaysiakini in 2002, said that he was asked by Ling for protection against the ACA (Anti-Corruption Agency) investigations.
"He asked me to assist him in not implicating him in the ACA investigations and to omit stating both Ling and his wife's roles and the benefits derived by them from the previous deals... in hindsight, I regret my doing so," he had said in the interview.
Someone was asking me prior to this earlier in the evening of the rumor mill of some VIP going to be in court in where most reporters have been camping since this afternoon. But the only question I was wondering was was there something behind this? Ling gets charged in court at the same time that Najib goes for a leave? The timing was giving me something to fathom about. To divert attention that Najib has nothing to do with this?