malaysia

Ex-transport minister Tee Keat says waiting for details of PKFZ suit withdrawal

Customs officers inspect vehicles at the entrance to the Port Klang Free Zone in this file picture. — Picture by Firdaus LatifCustoms officers inspect vehicles at the entrance to the Port Klang Free Zone in this file picture. — Picture by Firdaus LatifKUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — Former transport minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat today withheld comment on the Port Klang Authority (PKA)’s decision to withdraw its lawsuit against the turnkey developer, Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB).

Ong, the minister who triggered the scandal by ordering an audit into the project, said he needs to get the full details on the port authority’s retraction of the RM720 million lawsuit over the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project before he could respond.

“I was alerted on that by the counsel earlier, but I’ll certainly look into the details and what is the reasons behind,” he told Malay Mail Online, adding that he has yet to have a “full grasp” of the situation.

“Let me talk to my counsel and see what is going to be next,” said the former MCA president, who also said that he had just returned from a trip abroad.

Earlier today, PKA confirmed its withdrawal of its 2009 civil suit against PKFZ turnkey developer and land vendor Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB) to rectify a Sale and Purchase Agreement inked in November 2002 and recover RM720 million in interests charged.

PKA said the withdrawal was made on the condition that the latter similarly withdraw its civil suit against PKA, Ong and former PKA chairman Datuk Lee Hwa Beng for the alleged abuse of public office for the purportedly malicious publication of the PWC advisory report, and that there would be no order to costs.

PKA also explained today that its lawyers had advised that its probability of success in pursuing the RM720 million lawsuit at full trial had been “severely weakened by the testimonies of material witnesses, and findings of facts made by the High Court judge in the Tun Dr Ling trial”.

During Dr Ling’s trial, five witnesses who had served as Cabinet ministers during the PKFZ project, including former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had testified that they were not deceived by Dr Ling into approving a land deal.

The PKFZ scandal hit the headlines in 2008, after it was revealed in an audit commissioned by Ong — who was transport minister and MCA president at the time — that the cost had spiralled more than 10 times over its original budget.

Dr Ling — Ong’s predecessor in both the ministry and MCA — had pitched the idea to create a free trade zone at the Port Klang area and turn it into a regional integrated cargo distribution and industrial park in 1997, when he was then the transport minister.

It originally was supposed to have cost RM1.1 billion but this later grew to RM4.6 billion in 2007, before an audit by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers commissioned by Ong in 2008 showed that the total cost including interest payments was projected to hit RM12.5 billion.

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