GEORGE TOWN • The corruption trial involving Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon began in the High Court in Penang yesterday.
The trial, in connection with the conversion of land from agricultural use to residential, and another deal involving the purchase of a plot of land and a bungalow at below-market value, began with the prosecution submitting amended charges to both the accused.
Lim and Phang pleaded not guilty to the amended charges.
The court case comes just ahead of the Malaysian general election. Lim is secretary-general of the federal opposition party, the Democratic Action Party, which with its political allies won the Penang state legislature in the last two polls.
For the first amended charge, Lim was charged with using his position as a public officer, namely the chief minister of Penang, to gain gratification for himself and his wife Betty Chew Gek Cheng, by approving the application to convert agricultural land into a public-housing zone in south-west Penang by a company, Magnificent Emblem.
Lim, 58, was charged with committing the offence while chairing a Penang state planning committee meeting at the Komtar building in Penang on July 18, 2014.
The amended charge involved the change of "civil servant" to "public officer".
If found guilty, he could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined up to five times the value of the bribe, or RM10,000 (S$3,360), whichever is higher.
For the second amended charge, Lim was charged with using his position to obtain for himself a plot of land and a bungalow, located in Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, from Phang for RM2.8 million, a price which he allegedly knew did not commensurate with the property's then market value of RM4.27 million.
The offence was allegedly committed at the Jalan Pinhorn property on Oct 21, 2015.
Under this charge, he could be jailed for up to two years, or fined, or both, on conviction.
Phang also pleaded not guilty to an amended charge of abetting Lim in obtaining the bungalow at an undervalued cost at the same place and date.
She could be jailed for up to two years, or fined, or both, on conviction.
Lim and Phang arrived at the courtroom at 8.50am, with the public gallery filled up by their family members and supporters.
Twenty media practitioners were allowed into the courtroom to cover the hearing.
The public, including members of the media, were at the court compound from 7.30am and were allowed into the courtroom only at 8am after passing through a metal detector.