PUTRAJAYA, July 29 – Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik was charged with cheating here today over the scandal hit Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project.
The prosecution of Dr Ling comes as a huge shock and is expected to have repercussions for MCA as he is still considered a kingmaker in the party.
Dr Ling (picture) is believed to be the first Tun ever to be prosecuted.
The high powered prosecution team is led by the Attorney General Abdul Ghani Pattail, Deputy Public Prosector (dpp) Tun Majid Tun Hamzah and dpp Manoj Kurup.
Ling will be represented by Datuk R R Sethu.
Dr Ling led MCA from 1986 to 2003. The PKFZ project was mooted during his tenure as Transport Minister and the cost of the project, initially estimated at less than RM2 billion, more than doubled to RM4.6 billion by 2007.
The cost of the project has been further projected to swell to as much as RM12.5 billion due to interest costs from deferred payments if the trans-shipment hub fails to perform.
Though he left the post of MCA president in 2003, Ling is still influential in MCA and is perceived as a king maker and the charges will have repercussions on the party which is struggling to regain Chinese support.
The move to charge Ling however could help deflect criticisms that the Najib Administration lacks the will to go after the “real masterminds” behind the PKFZ project and boost its reform credentials.The charges concern land evaluations under the penal code with the principle charge under section 418 with the alternative charge being 417.
Ling claimed trial to the charges and when the charges were read out to him Ling said he was “not guilty” to both charges.
The AG has requested bail at RM1 million and the defence had no objections.
Punishment for offences under section 417 carries a jail term of not more than 5 years and not more than 7 years under section 418.
The case has been fixed for mention on September 3 and judge will be Sessions Court judge Suzana Hussin.
According to the penal code, section 418 concerns “Cheating with knowledge that wrongful loss may be thereby caused to a person whose interest the offender is bound to protect” while section 417 concerns “Punishment for cheating.”
Ling entered the court accompanied by five policemen and dressed in a striped blue and white shirt and black slacks.
His wife Toh Puan Ena Ling was spotted in the court gallery.
Ling is out on police bail and will post bail tomorrow as it is too late for him to do so today
When approached by reporters on his way out of the court, Ling said: “When you’re in the Palace of Justice, you must be very confident of justice.”
Earlier, Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail and three DPPs, including head of prosecution Tun Abdul Majid Hamzah, arrived at 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.
The other two DPPs were Manoj Kurup and Dzulkifli Ahmad.
Ling, a long-time cabinet minister, was also a close associate of former premier 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 most high-profile figure to be hauled to court in recent years.