Court drops corruption charge against Guan Eng

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng outside the High Court today.

GEORGE TOWN: The High Court today acquitted Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon of the corruption charges against them over the purchase of a bungalow at allegedly below market price after the prosecution decided to drop the charges.

Deputy public prosecutor Masri Mohd Daud, who decided to drop the charges after receiving representations from the accused, asked the court to consider a discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) for the two.

However, the defendants’ lawyers objected to the DNAA suggestion, saying it was not right for the public prosecutor to leave a cloud hanging over their heads as they might be charged again in the future.

Lim was represented by Ramkarpal Singh and RSN Rayer, while Phang was represented by V Sithambaram and Hisyam Teh Poh Teik.

Justice Hadhariah Syed Ismail concurred with the defendants’ lawyers, saying the court had already heard the testimony of 25 witnesses and could not afford another round of witness testimonies if a fresh charge was filed against the defendants.

“With the greatest respect to the prosecutor, the court cannot give the accused a DNAA,” she said. “We cannot continue to have the case hanging over their heads.

“I hereby order that the accused be discharged amounting to an acquittal.”

Lim and Phang, who were both present at court today, appeared relieved at the decision.

When met outside the court, Lim thanked his lawyers for their defence, saying the “unbearable stress” which had been mounting over the past two years had finally gone.

He said the charge against him was clearly “selective persecution” by the previous government, adding that only God could punish those who had made the charges against him and Phang.

“This has cleared our names. Today, Phang and I were ready for any kind of possibility. I am glad for my lawyers, my family, party leaders and my supporters who have been with me through thick and thin.

“I also thank Phang who stood by me through this ordeal,” he said.

As for those who had made the claims against him, he said, he left their fate to God.

“We want to celebrate our success which I never expected this morning. After this, we will continue our job of making Malaysia better.”

On June 30, 2016, Lim was charged with using his public office or position as Penang chief minister to obtain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew, by approving an application by Magnificent Emblem to convert agricultural land for residential purposes during a state exco meeting on July 18, 2014.

Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act carries a minimum imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of five times the value of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

Lim was also charged under Section 165 of the Penal Code for allegedly using his position to obtain gratification by purchasing a bungalow from Phang at RM2.8 million, which was below the property’s market value of RM4.7 million at that time.

The second offence carries imprisonment of a maximum two years, a fine, and forfeiture of property upon conviction.

Phang meanwhile was charged under Section 109 of the Penal Code for abetting Lim on July 28, 2015 after buying the former’s bungalow at Pinhorn Road.

She was alleged to have committed an offence under Section 165 of the Penal Code by using Lim’s position for gratification.