I lodged report ‘to clear CM’s name’, says witness

Mohsin Abdul Latheef (in striped shirt) tells court he learned about the bungalow purchase through a video of Shahbudin Yahaya and Lim Guan Eng debating the matter in Parliament.

GEORGE TOWN: The Facebook marketer who first lodged a report with graft-busters on Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s allegedly underpriced bungalow purchase took the witness stand at the start of Lim’s corruption trial at the High Court today.

Mohsin Abdul Latheef, 34, told the court he lodged the report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in March 2016 after becoming “concerned” over the allegations of graft against Lim.

He said he first heard about the matter in a recorded Dewan Rakyat session where Tasek Gelugor MP Shahbudin Yahaya made the accusation against Lim.

During his examination-in-chief, deputy public prosecutor Masry Mohd Daud asked Mohsin if he was forced by any parties to lodge the MACC report against Lim.

However, Mohsin said he had done so of his own free will so the “CM can clear his name”.

Masry then played a video of Lim and Shahbudin in Parliament, where the duo were engaged in a debate on the bungalow purchase.

Mohsin agreed that his report to the MACC was based on the video, which he claimed to have received via WhatsApp.

Lim’s lead lawyer Gobind Singh Deo pointed out that the initial report by Mohsin stated Lim’s bungalow purchase was made in 2008, when the property was bought in 2015.

But Mohsin said he could not remember why he had written 2008 instead of 2015, and that he had forgotten as it was a long time ago.

When asked where he had gotten his information for the report, Mohsin said he had obtained it from a blog.

Pressed further by Gobind, Mohsin said he had not seen Lim’s sale and purchase agreement for the bungalow, neither was he aware of the value of the property.

Mohsin also admitted that he had not consulted a real estate agent to ask if the bungalow was indeed bought at below market value.

Mohsin said he had only read on Facebook that the bungalow’s price was not reasonable as other homes next to it had been sold at a higher price.

Gobind asked Mohsin whether he was pro-Barisan Nasional (BN) since he used the hashtag #kamigengNajib on his FB posts.

However, Mohsin denied being a BN supporter, saying he was just pro-Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Gobind also asked Mohsin whether he had been motivated by his political leanings to lodge a report against Lim.

“No,” Mohsin said. “I lodged the report after watching a TV3 news clip on Shahbudin and Lim debating.”

Mohsin admitted he had protested against Lim and the Penang government before and was also known by his nickname, Mamu Parpu.

Seven witnesses were called this morning, while three more are expected to testify this afternoon.

Earlier, Masry told High Court judge Hadhariah Syed Ismail that 54 witnesses would be called for the trial.

The trial will run in five tranches for 23 days. The first tranche will run from today until Friday (March 30).

The trial takes place almost two years after Lim and businesswoman Phang Li Koon were initially charged.

On June 30, 2016, Lim, 55, was charged with using his public office to obtain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew, by approving an application by Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd to convert agricultural land for residential purposes.

Lim was also alleged to have used his position to obtain gratification by purchasing a bungalow from Phang for RM2.8 million, below the property’s market value of RM4.7 million on July 28, 2015.

Phang was charged with abetment.

The prosecution requested that Lim and Phang file their defence, but proceedings were temporarily halted as both challenged the legality of Section 62 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act 2009, which requires accused persons to reveal their defence before the trial begins.

In March last year, Hadhariah dismissed the motion filed by Lim and Phang to declare Section 62 as unconstitutional, but this was reversed by the Court of Appeal in August.

The Federal Court, however, allowed the appeal by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), ruling that Lim was required to give his defence statement to the prosecution before his corruption trial began.

A five-man bench chaired by Chief Justice Raus Sharif disagreed with the Court of Appeal that Section 62 of the MACC Act was unconstitutional.

Raus said Section 62, read together with Section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code, did not violate Articles 5 (1) and 8 (1) of the Federal Constitution, which govern life and personal liberty, as well as equal protection of the law.

Lim, who is DAP secretary-general, has maintained his innocence, calling the case a travesty of justice. He claims the charges were trumped up to ruin the state and his political career.

The Air Putih assemblyman has not discounted the possibility of the hearing affecting his ability to contest in the upcoming general election.

Lim has also indicated that Penang DAP chairman Chow Kon Yeow may replace him if he is convicted of his graft charges.