Statement by Wong Soon Koh alarmed me, says See

SIBU: A witness in a defamation suit against Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) president Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh told the High Court here on Friday (Aug 6) that he maintained his earlier evidence on the latter’s statement “the 2019 Budget was out by billions of ringgit” as a result of massive discount given to Petronas.

Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, had the day before told the court that he was alarmed and concerned on reading the statement by the then state Finance Minister.

During re-examination by Soon Koh’s counsel Clement Wong, See said: “What I have stated are matters of concern to me and the public”.

The state government is suing Soon Koh for libel with falsely alleging that Petronas was given a massive discount in SST on petroleum products, resulting in the 2019 Budget being out by billions of ringgit.

Earlier, former chairman of the Board of Petronas, Tan Sri Ahmad Nizam Salleh, who was called as a witness for Soon Koh, told the court that the whole intention of the joint press statement, issued by the Sarawak Government and Petronas on May 8, 2020, was to find an amicable solution to the issues at hand.

Following the joint statement, Petronas withdrew its appeal in the Court of Appeal against the High Court decision that the state government has a constitutional right to impose State Sales Tax (SST) on petroleum products. Similarly, the state government withdrew its civil suit against Petronas to recover the SST that Petronas refused to pay.

Ahmad Nizam told the Court that eventually Petronas paid the full amount of SST due for the Year 2019 in the sum of RM2,956,671,407 on Sept 17, 2020.

He said this amount was assessed by the Comptroller of State Sales Tax based on returns of actual volumes of Crude Oil, LNG and condensates sold in 2019, and the actual sale value obtained.

Ahmad Nizam confirmed that there was no discount, but he was unable to confirm if the said sum included penalty and overdue interests as he was not part of the working team that worked out the numbers.

He also said he was a non-executive chairman, hence was not involved in the management of Petronas.

On the draft estimates in the 2019 Budget presented in November 2018, which showed the estimated revenue from SST on petroleum products for the Year at RM3,879,000,000, Ahmad Nizam told the Court that Petronas did not provide that figure to the state government to be stated in the draft estimates.

He also did not know how that figure was arrived at.

He agreed with the state’s Legal Counsel Datuk JC Fong, who appeared for the state government, that “the estimated sum of RM3,879,000,000 was based on assumptions and forecast on price of the petroleum products and sale volume thereof, and that the price of petroleum products fluctuates.

He said any person, familiar with accounts, would know that the estimated figure of RM3,879,000,000 was only a budgetary estimate and not the actual amount owed by Petronas.

He then disagreed with the allegation by Soon Koh that “Petronas owed about RM3.8 billion” for SST for the Year 2019 saying that the statement by Soon Koh was “not true and inaccurate”.

Ahmad Nizam said Petronas never received any document from the state government that showed it owed about RM3.8 billion in SST for Year 2019.

He confirmed that following negotiations between Petronas and the state government, a Commercial Settlement Agreement was signed on Dec 7, 2020.

Hearing before Judicial Commissioner, Christopher Chin Soo Yin will continue on August 16 at 2.30pm.  

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