Port Klang Authority drops suit against PKFZ developer

File photo showing Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, putting a finger to his lips, declined to comment after the court acquitted him from the cheating charges over the PKFZ land purchase. — Picture by Saw Siow FengFile photo showing Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, putting a finger to his lips, declined to comment after the court acquitted him from the cheating charges over the PKFZ land purchase. — Picture by Saw Siow FengKUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — The Port Klang Authority (PKA) has withdrawn its RM720 million civil suit against the developer of the controversial Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project, Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB), after former minister Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik was acquitted last year of cheating the government.

PKA said in a statement today that the withdrawal of the suit was made on the condition that KDSB similarly withdraw its civil suit against PKA, former transport minister Tan Sri Ong Tee Keat 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.

“Following the judgment in the Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik criminal trial on the PKFZ matter, we moved to withdraw the civil suit as it has a material impact on this civil suit,” said a PKA spokesman.

The High Court had acquitted former transport minister and ex-MCA president Dr Ling in October last year of cheating the Cabinet into approving a land purchase for the PKFZ project, a multi-billion ringgit scandal that was said could cost taxpayers RM12.5 billion.

PKA said in its statement that following the verdict, PKA engaged its lawyers to conduct a “thorough” analysis of the ruling and the notes of proceedings to determine the impact of the judgment on its civil suit against KDSB.

“However, having subsequently received our solicitors’ written opinion, it became clear to PKA that PKA’s probability of success in pursuing this civil suit at full trial had been severely weakened by the testimonies of material witnesses, and findings of fact made by the High Court judge in the Tun Dr Ling trial,” said PKA.

Dr Ling, who was Malaysia’s transport minister for 17 years from January 1986 to May 2003, was charged in July 2010 with deceiving the Cabinet into approving the land purchase for the PKFZ project, despite knowing that the approval would result in wrongful losses for the government.

Dr Ling also faced two alternative charges of deceiving the Cabinet into believing that the land purchase’s terms — at RM25 psf plus 7.5 per cent interest — had the acknowledgment and agreement of the Land Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) despite knowing that there was no such agreement.

At the clarification stage of Dr Ling’s trial in September last year, his lead counsel Wong Kian Kheong told the court that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was among five Cabinet ministers who had testified that they were not deceived by Dr Ling.

He listed these five ministers as defence witnesses Dr Mahathir, Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn, Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir and prosecution witnesses Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri and Datuk Seri Mohd Effendi Norwawi.

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.