Graft buster minister was previously implicated in billion ringgit PKFZ controversy but never charged

TOURISM, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing is no stranger to graft-related controversies.

The Bintulu MP has been on both sides of the aisle after his recent heroics by coming to the rescue of a Chinese national lady who has been inconvenienced in exchange for kickbacks by immigration officers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

Tiong was praised and applauded for his graft-busting action as he stood his ground with his claim of immigration officers soliciting illicit money while his critics hit out at him for showing disrespect by barging into the turf or jurisdiction of the Home Ministry while causing a ruckus within the madani government.

While the Selangor police are now probing the incident of Tiong who had allegedly trespassed into the arrival hall of KLIA’s Terminal One on Thursday (June 29), Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook has made it clear that Tiong as a Cabinet minister has the security pass which allows him to enter restricted areas in the airport.

Could the special envoy of the Prime Ministers Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to China since April 2020 have gained his graft-busting prowess from being in the centre of the billion-ringgit Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal where he was never charged?

Recall that the Federal Court had on Jan 13, 2021 threw out the prosecution’s bid to seize RM37.8 mil worth of cash and properties involving the purported ill-gotten gains from the cost overruns that caused the PKFZ’s development cost to hit RM7.86 bil from an initial estimate of RM2 bil when it was first mooted in early 2000.

Pic credit: TAPiO Management Advisory

The apex court dismissed the prosecution’s appeal on the grounds that it had failed to relate how the purported breaches of the law led to Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB) – the owner and main contractor of the project – and its then CEO Tiong for acquiring the properties and cash.

“Six criminal prosecutions in eight years over the scandal-ridden PKFZ project with nothing to show for it is difficult enough to fathom,” business weekly The Edge summed up the ordeal in a cover story aptly entitled “PKFZ: No conviction after eight years and six criminal cases”.

“This was the prosecution’s last attempt to bring anyone to justice or obtain some form of compensation in the multibillion-ringgit scandal that tarnished the reputation of a number of politicians from the then ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition apart from Tiong. In the end, it all came to naught.”

Former Port Klang Authority (PKA) chairman (2008-2011) Datuk Lee Hwa Beng who led the probe into the irregularities at PKFZ was obviously disappointed with the outcome. He claimed that the prosecution could have done a better job had they taken the trouble to read his book entitled PKFZ: A Nation’s Trust Betrayed (published in 2012).

The former three-term Subang Jaya state assemblyman who was sacked by MCA in 2013 further lamented that he only ended up “wasting public resources” in trying to get to the bottom of the scandal that had led to numerous trials.

“I have to apologise to taxpayers for spending thousands of ringgit in legal fees and all,” he told Malay Mail. Lee also apologised for taking up the time of local law enforcers such as the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

In dismissing the forfeiture case, the apex court had some scathing comments for the prosecution, taking it to task for its lack of preparedness in presenting its case. The 30-page judgment by Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Hasnah Mohamed Hashim who was part of a three-member bench was telling, according to The Edge.

According to her, the prosecution had failed to provide the names, identities and sources of information that it had relied on as well as the reasons for its belief in the information or the involvement of each of the eight respondents: Tiong and KDSB, Transshipment Megahub Bhd, Coastal Skyline Sdn Bhd, Wijaya Baru Aviation Sdn Bhd, Wijaya Baru Sdn Bhd, Wijaya Baru Construction Sdn Bhd, Law Ka Hieng and the Selangor State Development Corp (PKNS).

Perhaps, this experience has enriched the conscience of Tiong who is also president of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), a component party of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), on the need to eradicate graft at all costs before it destroys the nation. – July 3, 2023

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