KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s former finance minister Lim Guan Eng was charged on Monday (Aug 10) morning with receiving a RM3.3 million ($1.08 million) bribe in relation to the Penang undersea tunnel project during his tenure as the state's chief minister.
This is the second charge Lim, who was chief minister from 2008 to 2018, is facing. The charge was read out at the Sessions Court in Penang.
The 59-year-old was last week arrested and charged in Kuala Lumpur by the country’s anti-graft body for allegedly soliciting a bribe based on future profits for the same project.
Lim, who is contesting both charges, is out on a RM1 million bail. He is due to face another unspecified charge on Tuesday.
The Democratic Action Party (DAP) opposition politician, whose wife has also been arrested and may be charged on Tuesday over money laundering allegations, has claimed that the corruption charges against him are a form of political persecution.
The RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel project has been on the radar of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) since 2017.
The investigation against Lim picked up pace recently, months after the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration lost federal power to Perikatan Nasional following a series of defections.
Lim was the finance minister for 22 months in the PH government, and is the secretary-general of DAP, which is the party with the most elected representatives in Parliament.
Lim faces a jail term of up to 20 years if found guilty, similar to the charge he faces in Kuala Lumpur.
The charge in Penang will also be transferred to KL courts next month, meaning both of his corruption trials will take place in the capital.
“The prosecution made the appeal (to transfer) and the judge had allowed the application.
“Both this case and the first charge are due to be heard at the KL court on Sept 9,” Lim’s lawyer Gobind Singh Deo said on Monday.
Lim maintained his innocence at a press conference held after he was charged in Penang, and said that the MACC had never asked him about the supposed RM3.3 million gratification he allegedly received from the contractor of the Penang undersea tunnel while he was chief minister of Penang.
“They never asked me this. MACC has never shown where this RM 3.3 million is, it is not in my bank accounts, I don’t have RM3.3 million in cash,” Lim told reporters, calling the allegation “baseless” and “politically motivated”.
Lim was twice incarcerated by the government during his years as an opposition politician,
He spent 1½ years behind bars without trial in the late 1980s, following a government crackdown on activists, scholars and politicians.
Lim was imprisoned for a year under the colonial era Sedition Act in 1998 after making statutory rape claims against a former state chief minister.
He was also charged with corruption in 2016 over the below-market price purchase of a bungalow during his tenure as Penang chief minister, but the charges were dropped in 2018.