Former transport minister Ling Liong Sik was charged in the Putrajaya Sessions Court over his involvement in the multi-billion ringgit Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal.
He is charged under Section 418 of the Penal Code with 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, now known as PKFZ, at a price of RM25psf on a deferred payment basis for a 15-year period, at a 7.5 percent interest rate.
The cumulative interest paid would total RM720 million at the end of the repayment period.
He was also offered an alternative charge, under Section 417 of the Penal Code, for the same offence.
According to the charge sheet, the Finance Ministry had already valued the land at RM25psf - inclusive of compounded interest - and this fact was withheld from the cabinet by the accused.
The relevant authority should be applauded for taking the necessary action on an important personality implicated in the financial scandal. However, this is only the beginning. It is now up to the prosecutors to ensure that they stitch up a solid piece of evidence to charge Ling.
Like many other cases before this one e.g. Perwaja etc. Ling may still get away with a full acquittal if the investigation is clumsy and shoddy.
At the end of the day, this scandal cannot be swept under the carpet. It is important to find out if Ling acted alone or with the inducement of others. Those who are connected or participated in the financial scandal must be brought to the court of justice and the money squandered from the project must be returned to the people.
We should take a serious interest in the case. Hopefully, the PKFZ will start a thorough scrutiny of all public projects which are suspected to involve any element of fraud.