Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng acquitted of graft: How the case unfolded

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng allegedly bought a RM2.8 million bungalow for much lower than its actual value.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng allegedly bought a RM2.8 million bungalow for much lower than its actual value.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

The controversy over the bungalow purchase made by then Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng began after an Umno Member of Parliament in March 2016 alleged that Mr Lim had bought the RM2.8 million home for much lower than its actual value.

The allegations by Datuk Shabudin Yahaya about the two-storey bungalow in Jalan Pinhorn, which Mr Lim had purchased from businesswoman Phang Li Koon in 2015, set off a chain of events which led to Mr Lim being investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

THE CHARGES

MACC officials on June 29, 2016 arrested Mr Lim and Ms Phang. Both were charged at the Penang Sessions court a day later.

Mr Lim, 58, was charged with abusing his position to approve a rezoning application by a company called Magnificent Emblem to convert agricultural land in Balik Pulau into a residential zone - a move that would have dramatically raised the land's value.

He was said to have allegedly committed the offence while chairing a Penang state planning committee meeting on July 18, 2014. According to local media reports, Ms Phang had been a director of Magnificent Emblem at the time.

Mr Lim also faced a second charge of using his position to obtain a plot of land and the Jalan Pinhorn bungalow in July 2015, from Ms Phang for RM2.8 million (S$931,000). The court documents stated that the actual market value of the bungalow was RM4.27 million.

Mr Lim would have had faced up to 20 years in jail if he had been convicted.

Ms Phang was charged with abetting Mr Lim to obtain the bungalow at an undervalued price. She had faced up to two years jail if convicted.

Both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Mr Lim, who was released on bail, was adamant from the start that he was innocent, saying that he would not "submit to such dirty and vicious political plays to destroy my reputation".

 

THE TRIAL

The trial, which began on March 26 2018, saw 25 witnesses being called in. It was briefly postponed to allow Mr Lim to campaign in Malaysia's May 9 general election.

After Mr Lim's Pakatan Harapan alliance was elected to power in May, his lawyers filed representations to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) for the charges to be dropped, saying they were politically-motivated. The prosecution was granted by the High Court until Sept 3 to decide whether to proceed with the corruption charges.

ACQUITTAL

On Sept 3, the AGC withdrew all the charges.

Although the prosecution had requested a dismissal not amounting to an acquittal, High Court judge Justice Hadhariah Syed Ismail acquitted both the accused. She said the charges could not "be hanging over the head of the accused indefinitely".