Lim Guan Eng claims trial to fresh charges of corruption

His wife Betty Chew and businesswoman Phang Li Koon also charged in same case

Lim Guan Eng and his wife Betty Chew after their court appearance in Penang yesterday. PHOTO: BERNAMA
Lim Guan Eng and his wife Betty Chew after their court appearance in Penang yesterday. PHOTO: BERNAMA

BUTTERWORTH • Malaysia's opposition politician Lim Guan Eng yesterday pleaded not guilty to fresh corruption charges involving soliciting bribes in a worker dormitory project in Penang when he was the state's chief minister.

Businesswoman Phang Li Koon, a family friend, was charged with abetting him in the bribery case.

Also charged was Lim's wife, Betty Chew, who claimed trial to charges of laundering the money in the bribery case.

Lim, who was Penang's chief minister and chairman of Penang Development Corp, is accused of ensuring that Magnificent Emblem, a company believed to be related to Phang, was awarded a RM11.61 million (S$3.8 million) worker dormitory project in Batu Kawan between Aug 19, 2013 and March 3, 2016, local media reported.

Lim was also charged over using his position as chief minister to ask for RM372,009 in bribes for his wife Chew, through the private company Excel Property Management and Consultancy.

Lim was the state's chief minister between 2008 and 2018.

Phang, 48, pleaded not guilty to the charge of abetting Lim.

Media reports say Chew, 56, pleaded not guilty to three charges under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.

These are fresh charges against the 59-year-old Lim who had - last Friday and this Monday - been charged over a Penang undersea tunnel project.

The new charges are not related to a case over the sale and purchase of a bungalow in Penang in 2015. Both Lim and Phang were charged over that case in 2016 and acquitted in 2018.

Last Friday, Lim was charged in a Kuala Lumpur court with using his position as Penang chief minister to solicit a 10 per cent bribe based on future profits of a RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel project for the state. He pleaded not guilty.

On Monday, Lim pleaded not guilty to a charge of using his position as then chief minister to solicit a RM3.3 million bribe related to the same undersea tunnel project.

Lim is out on bail of RM1 million for the tunnel project case.

Yesterday, the judge in Butterworth, in mainland Penang, set bail at RM50,000 each for the three accused.

Lim, who is secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Action Party - the biggest party in Parliament with 42 MPs - has claimed political persecution against him by the government.

The Penang tunnel project has been on the radar of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission since 2017.

But the investigation against Lim picked up pace only recently, months after the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration lost federal power to Perikatan Nasional following a series of defections.

Lim was Malaysia's finance minister for nearly 22 months in the PH government, led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which collapsed five months ago.

If convicted of any of the charges linked to the tunnel or dormitory project, Lim faces a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine not less than five times the amount of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The son of veteran lawmaker Lim Kit Siang, Lim had been behind bars twice. He was detained in 1987 for two years in a mass crackdown on political opponents by then Prime Minister Mahathir.

In 1998, Lim was sentenced to 18 months in prison and released after 12 months under the Sedition Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act, in a case involving the alleged rape of a minor by a former Melaka chief minister.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2020, with the headline Lim Guan Eng claims trial to fresh charges of corruption. Subscribe