Penang state exco remanded for anti-graft agency probe into illegal factory

MACC officers escort Sungai Puyu assemblyman Phee Boon Poh to George Town court for remand in Penang.
MACC officers escort Sungai Puyu assemblyman Phee Boon Poh to George Town court for remand in Penang. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Penang state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh was yesterday (Aug 12) remanded for five days to facilitate investigations by Malaysia's anti-graft agency into a carbon filter processing factory that has allegedly been operating illegally in the state for ten years.

Sungai Puyu assemblyman Phee, 66, is chairman of the state Welfare and Caring Society and councillor in charge of environment.

A veteran politician, he was known as a vocal opposition leader who took on 38 Barisan Nasional representatives in the state assembly when he was the sole Democratic Action Party (DAP) assemblyman from 2004 until 2008.

Two others were remanded with him yesterday, the 70-year-old manager of the factory and his 37-year-old son who is a director of the factory.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had on Thursday (Aug 10) raided the factory in Bukit Mertajam, following complaints from villagers who feared fumes from the factory could affect their health. The carbon filter-processing factory has been operating on agricultural land inside an oil palm estate for more than 10 years.

The agency arrested the trio on Friday (Aug 11) after they produced themselves for questioning at the state MACC headquarters in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said Phee was detained under section 23 of the MACC Act for abuse of power.

The section provides for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The 5,000 sq metre factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu, burns sawdust in pits to produce carbon, which is then used in filters. A source from the Department of Environment revealed that the factory did not have an air pollution control system.

Kampung Sungai Lembu Development and Security Committee chairman Tan Sing Lee, 58, said: "Every time the wind blows our way especially in December, the air is polluted. At night, the air is foggy and villagers complain about the smell," he said.

"We reported the matter to Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin but no action was taken in the past two years."

Phee is the second member of the state administration to be arrested by the MACC, the first being Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng who was arrested in June last year over the purchase of a RM2.8mil bungalow in Penang.

Lim was subsequently charged with allegedly using his position as the Chief Minister of Penang to gain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew Gek Cheng, by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone in south-west Penang to a company called Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd in 2014.

Lim faces a second charge of using his position to obtain a plot of land and a bungalow located at No 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, in July 2015, from businesswoman Phang Li Koon for RM2.8 million, a price which he allegedly knew did not commensurate with the property's market value at the time of RM4.27 million.

Case management for Lim's corruption trial has been fixed for Nov 14.