Penang executive councillor held in graft probe

Sungai Puyu assemblyman Phee Boon Poh was detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Sungai Puyu assemblyman Phee Boon Poh was detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

GEORGE TOWN • Penang state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh was yesterday remanded for five days to facilitate investigations by Malaysia's anti-graft agency into a carbon filter processing factory that has allegedly been operating illegally in the state for 10 years.

The 66-year-old Sungai Puyu assemblyman is chairman of the state Welfare and Caring Society and councillor in charge of environment. A veteran politician, he was known as a vocal opposition leader who took on 38 Barisan Nasional representatives in the State Assembly as the sole Democratic Action Party assemblyman from 2004 to 2008.

Two others were remanded with him yesterday - the 70-year-old manager of the factory and his 37-year-old son who is a director of the factory.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) raided the factory in Bukit Mertajam last Thursday, following complaints from villagers who feared fumes from the factory could affect their health. The factory has been operating on agricultural land inside an oil palm estate for more than 10 years.

The agency arrested the trio last Friday after they presented themselves for questioning at the state MACC headquarters in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Azam Baki said Mr Phee was detained under Section 23 of the MACC Act for abuse of power.

The section provides for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000 (S$3,200), whichever is higher.

The 5,000 sq m factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu burns sawdust in pits to produce carbon, which is then used in filters. A Department of Environment source revealed the factory did not have an air pollution control system.

Kampung Sungai Lembu Development and Security Committee chairman Tan Sing Lee, 58, said: "Every time the wind blows our way, especially in December, the air is polluted. At night, the air is foggy and villagers complain about the smell.

"We reported the matter to Penanti assemblyman, Dr Norlela Ariffin, but no action was taken in the past two years."

Mr Phee is the second member of the state administration to be arrested by the MACC, the first being Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was arrested in June last year.

Lim faces two charges of corruption - using his position to approve an application to convert agriculture land for residential use, and buying a bungalow for RM2.8 million, below its market value of RM4.3 million. Case management for Lim's corruption trial has been fixed for Nov 14.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 13, 2017, with the headline 'Penang executive councillor held in graft probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe