Lim Guan Eng's corruption trial to resume next week

GEORGE TOWN • The corruption trial of Mr Lim Guan Eng, the designated finance minister of Malaysia's new Pakatan Harapan government, is set to resume on Monday after being postponed to allow him to campaign in the general election last week.

Lead counsel for Mr Lim, Mr Gobind Singh Deo, said the case would be brought up for mention in the Penang High Court on Monday.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad clarified last Monday that Mr Lim was merely named finance minister, but had yet to take his oath of office.

"Every minister must be someone who is qualified for the position. If there is a case against such a person, we cannot appoint him or her," he told reporters.

Tun Dr Mahathir stressed that the rule of law must be followed, and the government will have to wait until Mr Lim is cleared of charges before he can be made minister.

Mr Lim, a former Penang chief minister, faces two corruption charges and has pleaded not guilty to both of them.

He is accused of using his position as chief minister in July 2014 to gain gratification for himself and his wife Betty Chew Gek Cheng by approving the application for conversion of agricultural land to a public housing zone in Balik Pulau to a company, Magnificent Emblem.

If convicted, he faces a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the bribe or RM10,000 (S$3,400), whichever is higher.

He is also accused of using his position in October 2015 to obtain for himself a plot of land and a bungalow, located at 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, from businesswoman Phang Li Koon for RM2.8 million, a price which he allegedly knew was not commensurate with the property's market value of RM4.27 million.

The charge carries a prison sentence of up to two years, a fine or both, upon conviction.

Ms Phang has also pleaded not guilty to a charge of abetting Mr Lim in obtaining the bungalow at an undervalued price at the same place and date.

The trial was delayed after both filed motions to declare Section 62 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act unconstitutional.

Justice Hadhariah Syed Ismail dismissed the applications, and the defendants referred the matter to the Court of Appeal, which ruled that Section 62 was unconstitutional. The Federal Court later overturned the ruling.

Speaking at his first public rally in three years on Wednesday night, newly pardoned politician Anwar Ibrahim endorsed Mr Lim as finance minister.

Datuk Seri Anwar, a former finance minister himself, said Mr Lim had a good track record in Penang and will ensure open tenders for government projects.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2018, with the headline 'Lim Guan Eng's corruption trial to resume next week'. Print Edition | Subscribe