Not a crime to use wife’s law firm, says Lim’s aide

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GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was not going against election vows by retaining his wife’s law firm to buy his bungalow, a political aide said today amid allegations of nepotism.

Lim’s political secretary Wong Hon Wai said Lim’s wife, Betty Chew, was free from any state government dealings and hence had done nothing wrong.

“I wish to reiterate there is no breach of the election manifesto as Betty Chew and the legal firm she worked for do not represent the Penang government or have any business dealings with the state.”

Wong was responding to a claim by state Wanita Gerakan chief Hartini Tan that there could be a “cover up” by using Chew’s legal firm to handle the sale of Lim’s RM2.8 million bungalow.

Tan had demanded that Lim come clean on why he had used Chew’s firm, instead of engaging a third party.

It was reported that Chew had left as partner in the firm in December to join another.

To this, Wong advised Gerakan to study the Pakatan Rakyat manifesto from the last general election.

“The manifesto states family members of elected representatives are prohibited from having business dealings with the state government.

“We have also barred elected representatives from taking part in open tenders for state land.

“We have honoured our promise and did not breach our election pledges.”

The bungalow sale has been the centre of controversy ever since Tasek Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahaya told Parliament that Lim’s bungalow was bought at a price below market value for similar houses in the Jalan Pinhorn area.

Lim bought the house for RM2.8 million although comparable residences there are going for RM6-RM6.5 million.

The bungalow’s previous owner, Phang Li Koon, in a statutory declaration, said she was Chew’s close friend and had decided to sell the bungalow below the market value on a “willing buyer-willing seller” basis.

Lim has since denied any allegations of wrongdoing and claimed he was being attacked by his Barisan Nasional adversaries in an attempt to whitewash the RM2.6 billion political donation received by the prime minister.

Lim said he bought the bungalow using his allowances as MP and state assemblyman. He said he paid RM700,000 as down-payment, with the remaining RM2.1 million financed through a bank loan.