Chief minister's bungalow purchase

Penang chief's bungalow purchase: Seller 'not forced to sell'

In sworn statement, woman also denies any link to Taman Manggis land issue

A woman who sold her house to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng last year yesterday issued a sworn statement to defend her decision. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

GEORGETOWN • A woman who sold her house to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng last year yesterday issued a sworn statement to defend her decision, which has become controversial after the RM2.8 million (S$952,000) price was deemed to be below market value for a bungalow in that part of Penang island.

Ms Phang Li Koon said in a statutory declaration that the price was agreed upon by her and Mr Lim in 2014, and the house was sold last year. Mr Lim and his family had been renting the 10,000 sq ft two-storey bungalow in Jalan Pinhorn from 2009, the Malaysian media reported yesterday.

The sale became a political hot potato last week after Umno MP Shabudin Yahaya said in Parliament that Mr Lim bought the house at below its market value of some RM6 million. And he alleged that Ms Phang had an interest in piece of land in Taman Manggis that was later bought from the Penang government at a low price.

"I stress that I was not pressured or forced or under any influence by the CM (chief minister) or any party to sell the house to the CM at RM2.8 million. I sold on my own free will on a willing buyer and willing seller basis," Ms Phang said in the statement that was read to reporters by a Penang state executive councillor, Mr Phee Boon Poh.

She denied any link to the Taman Manggis land issue, saying that she is not a director or a shareholder in the Kuala Lumpur International Dental Centre, which won its bid for the land in 2012 via open tender, Malaysiakini reported.

She said: "The CM and his family have been very good tenants for the last six years. To me, he is a respectable leader and I feel honoured to sell my property to him."

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency said it was looking into the issue after several police reports were lodged against Mr Lim, who has maintained that he has nothing to hide.

Mr Lim, who is secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Action Party, took reporters to visit his home last Saturday.

A Penang Umno Youth leader, Mr Rafizal Abd Rahim, on Monday accused him of lying when he claimed to not know the value of the Jalan Pinhorn bungalow, saying the chief minister had declared it to be worth RM4.27 million to the tax office after purchasing it last year.

Mr Rafizal showed reporters what he said were copies of the transfer of property notice Mr Lim received from the Inland Revenue Board last August, the Malay Mail Online reported on Monday.

Activist lawyer S. Ambiga yesterday said the chief minister might want to consider taking leave from office as the authorities investigate the issue.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline Penang chief's bungalow purchase: Seller 'not forced to sell'. Subscribe