Malaysia’s ex-finance minister Lim Guan Eng arrested on corruption charges linked to RM6.3b Penang undersea tunnel

Mr Lim Guan Eng arrives at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters on Aug 6, 2020.
Mr Lim Guan Eng arrives at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters on Aug 6, 2020.PHOTO: BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's former finance minister Lim Guan Eng was arrested by the country's anti-graft body on Thursday night (Aug 6), following weeks of a probe into an RM6.3 billion (S$2.06 billion) undersea tunnel project that was green-lit during his tenure as Penang chief minister.

Mr Lim, 59, was arrested shortly after he arrived at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters for questioning.

Mr Lim, who is also the secretary general of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), the party with the most seats in the Malaysian Parliament, will face two charges relating to the undersea tunnel. He will also be charged with another offence at a Penang sessions court next week, the MACC said in a statement.

According to the commission, Mr Lim will be charged with bribery and abuse of power relating to the undersea tunnel project, and a separate abuse of power charge for the additional unspecified case.

If found guilty, he could face up to 20 years in prison for each of the charges.

The MACC has been investigating the undersea tunnel project for close to three years, but investigations seemed to fizzle out after a series of arrests of businessmen and officials connected to the project in early 2018.

However, they appeared to gather momentum again after the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government - in which Mr Lim served as finance minister - earlier this year.

The commission questioned several prominent Penang politicians in recent weeks to aid its probe, including Mr Lim's successor as chief minister, Mr Chow Kon Yeow.

Mr Lim's party colleague Tony Pua recently said that the investigations targeting Mr Lim were a form of political persecution.

 
 
 

However, it is not the first time the MACC has charged Mr Lim with graft. He faced corruption charges over the purchase of a bungalow below the market price in 2016, but they were controversially dropped in 2018 by then Attorney General Tommy Thomas, months after Pakatan Harapan won federal power.

De-facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan recently said that the MACC could also relaunch its probe into Mr Lim's bungalow purchase if new evidence emerges.

Mr Lim was Penang chief minister between 2008 and 2018, and early studies for the tunnel started during his administration in 2016. The ambitious tunnel project is not due to be completed until 2025.