Guan Eng charged with abuse of power over tunnel project

Former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng with his wife Betty Chew (left) and son Marcus (right) at the Sessions Court in Butterworth today.

BUTTERWORTH: Former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng was charged at the Sessions Court here today with abuse of power in relation to the RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel and main roads project, just days after claiming trial to another charge of asking for bribes in connection with the same project.

He was accused of abusing his power as chief minister under Section 23 (1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 by seeking gratification of RM3.3 million to appoint Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli’s company to build the project.

He was alleged to have committed the offence between January 2011 and August 2017 on the 28th floor of Komtar.

If convicted, he faces a jail term of 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the sum or value of gratification.

Lim Guan Eng’s supporters gather outside the Sessions Court in Butterworth today.

Lim, who was represented by lawyers Gobind Singh Deo, Ramkarpal Singh, RSN Rayer and V Vemal Arasan, pleaded not guilty to the charge before judge Ahmad Azhari Abdul Hamid.

Deputy public prosecutors Ahmad Akram Gharib, Mohd Mukhzany Fariz Mohd Mokhtar and Francine Cheryl Rajendram prosecuted.

Last Friday, Lim was accused of seeking a 10% cut from the profits of the project.

He was alleged to have committed the offence at The Gardens Hotel in Kuala Lumpur in March 2011.

If found guilty, he will face a maximum 20 years in jail and a fine of up to five times the alleged gratification solicited.

Azhari allowed an extension of the RM1 million bail from the earlier case, as well as the prosecution’s application to transfer the case to the Kuala Lumpur court.

Lead prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib had made the request citing logistical issues.

He said most of the hard copy evidence was in Putrajaya, adding that it would be easier if Lim was tried in Kuala Lumpur.

He also said a trial in Kuala Lumpur would make it easier for Lim to attend Dewan Rakyat sittings as Bagan MP.

During submissions, Gobind who is lead defence counsel said the charge against Lim was vague as the alleged offence was said to have taken place between 2011 and 2017 without specific details given.

To Akram, who asked for a gag order barring external comment on the case, he said this would be unfair as the case was of public interest.

Akram had referred to a report by The Malaysian Insight quoting Damansara MP Tony Pua in comments deemed contemptuous of court proceedings.

He also cited a Facebook Live video posted by Pua in which he commented on the merits of the case.

However, Gobind asked why Akram had not raised the matter when “other parties” commented on Lim’s earlier corruption charge last Friday.

“Furthermore, the court in Kuala Lumpur did not issue a gag order. I also believe that if one goes beyond fair comment in their remarks on the case, then they should be held in contempt,” he said.

The case will be brought up for mention at the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 9.