Guan Eng’s ‘bungalow’ graft trial begins Monday

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was first charged two years ago.

GEORGE TOWN: The trial of a corruption case involving Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon in connection with the purchase of a bungalow at below the market price will kick off tomorrow at the High Court here, almost two years after they were charged.

Judge Hadhariah Syed Ismail will hear the case, scheduled for five days, beginning Monday until Friday.

Deputy public prosecutor Masri Mohd Daud, when contacted, said the prosecution was ready while lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, who is representing Phang, said the statement of defence had been served on the prosecution last Wednesday.

On June 30, 2016, Lim and Phang were brought to the Sessions Court and charged, but no plea was recorded from them.

The case was later transferred to the High Court following an application by Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali, who made the application under Section 60 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act.

It was in the High Court that Lim, 58, pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption in relation to the conversion of land from agriculture to residential and the purchase of a plot of land and bungalow at below market value.

He was charged with using his position as a civil servant, namely, as 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 southwest Penang to a company, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd.

Lim allegedly committed the offence while chairing the Penang State Planning Committee meeting at the operations room, Level 28, Komtar building here, on July 18, 2014.

The charge, under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, provides an imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the bribe, or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

Lim faces a second charge of using his position to obtain for himself a plot of land and a bungalow, located at No 25, Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, on July 28, 2015 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 charge, under Section 165 of the Penal Code, provides a jail term for up to two years, or a fine, or both, upon conviction.

Phang pleaded not guilty to abetting Lim in obtaining the bungalow at an undervalued cost. She allegedly committed the offence at the same place and date.

She was charged under Section 109 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 165 of the same law, which provides an imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine, or both, upon conviction.

However, no plea was recorded from Lim and Phang when the charges were read out before Sessions Court judge Roslan Hamid as the case was later transferred to the High Court.

Before the trial commenced, Lim and Phang had filed an application to declare Section 62 of the MACC Act, which required the accused persons to disclose their defence statements to the prosecution before the commencement of the trial, as unconstitutional.

However, the High Court dismissed their application. On Aug 7, 2017, the Court of Appeal reversed the ruling after allowing the appeals brought by Lim and Phang.

On Dec 14 , 2017, the Federal Court overturned the Court of Appeal’s verdict, granting the prosecution’s appeal and ruled that Section 62 was constitutional and ordered the trial to begin forthwith.

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