Malaysia's ex-minister Lim Guan Eng, wife and businesswoman plead not guilty to fresh charges

Former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng was arrested and charged in Kuala Lumpur last week by the country's anti-corruption body with soliciting a bribe based on future profits for the same project. PHOTO: AFP

BUTTERWORTH - Malaysia's opposition leader Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon on Tuesday (Aug 11) claimed trial to graft charges involving a worker dormitory project, while Lim's wife Betty Chew who was charged alongside them, claimed trial to charges of money laundering.

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

Lim was also charged for using his position as chief minister to ask for RM372,009 (S$121,500) in bribes for his wife Chew, through private company Excel Property Management and Consultancy Sdn Bhd. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Phang pleaded not guilty for abetting Lim in the charges against him.

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

These are fresh charges, and not related to previous cases over a Penang undersea tunnel project for which Lim was charged on Friday and Monday.

The new charges aren't related either to the sale by Phang to Lim of a bungalow in Penang in 2015, for which Lim was acquitted in 2018.

On Monday (Aug 10), Lim pleaded not guilty to a charge of using his position as then chief minister of Penang to solicit a RM3.3 million (S$1.1 million) bribe related to the RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel project.

Lim was last Friday (Aug 7) charged in Kuala Lumpur with soliciting a bribe based on future profits for the same undersea tunnel project.

Lim, 59, who is contesting all the charges, is out on a RM1 million bail.

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

The RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel project has been on the radar of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) since 2017.

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

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

If convicted, 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.

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