PENANG – Ex-finance minister Lim Guan Eng, his wife, and a businesswoman have been slapped with a third charge of money laundering.
On Tuesday (11 Aug), former finance chief to the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Lim Guan Eng will be charged under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act over a land deal.
He is to be charged alongside his wife Betty Chew Gek Cheng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon at the Sessions Court in Penang.
Dozens of supporters and media personnel were seen outside the court since 7am on Tuesday.
On Monday (10 Aug), Mr Lim pleaded not guilty to a charge of using his position as then chief minister of Penang to solicit a RM3.3mil (S$1.1 million) bribe related to the RM6.3bil (S$2.06 billion) Penang undersea tunnel project.
These allegations of corruption were first charged against him on Friday (7 Aug) after he was arrested late last Thursday night (6 Aug) by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters.
The next day, the Special Corruption Court read out the charge against him for soliciting a bribe over a controversial RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel project during his tenure as Penang chief minister.
The charge sheet alleged that he had asked for a bribe of 10 per cent of future profits from a company that was awarded a contract to build the undersea tunnel.
Under the Laws of Malaysia Act 613, Article 4 (1)(b), Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act notes that any person who “acquires, receives, possesses, disguises, transfers, converts, exchanges, carries, disposes of or uses proceeds of an unlawful activity or instrumentalities of an offence”.
If found guilty, Mr Lim could be jailed for up to 20 years, and fined not less than five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
He told reporters after the court session: “This is a baseless allegation and it is politically motivated to tarnish and smear my reputation. I want to stress that I have never received any gratification and I have said this to MACC and they never asked me to show proof of whether I got millions or billions of ringgit in my bank account or whether I had millions of ringgit in cash in my possession.
“This project was by open tender, not by direct award, and to date not a single sen has been paid for the tunnel project.
“I will fight to prove my innocence in court. I believe that the truth will show that I have not received any gratification and there is no corruption.”
The 59-year-old was also arrested last week and charged in Kuala Lumpur (KL) by the country’s anti-corruption body for soliciting a bribe based on future profits for the same project.
Mr Lim, who is contesting both charges, is out on a RM1 million bail.
The Democratic Action Party (DAP) opposition politician has claimed that the corruption charges against him are a form of political ploy to persecute oppositions.
The RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel project has been on the radar of the MACC since 2017.
But the investigation against Mr Lim only picked up pace recently, months after the PH administration lost federal power to the Perikatan Nasional following a series of defections.
Mr Lim was finance minister for 22 months in the PH government, and is the secretary-general of DAP, which is the party with the most number of elected representatives in Parliament.
His son, Marcus, said that the family had expected this to happen since the collapse of the PH government in February.
“Their plan is simple, to frame and capture those leaders who wouldn’t bow down to their dirty scheme,” Mr Marcus wrote on Facebook.
“Their motive is clear, to dismantle DAP, ultimately destroying PH. They thrive on dirty politics, making the right wrong, and the wrong right. Unfortunately, this is how politics work here,” he said.
This is not the first time Mr Lim has been charged with graft.
He faced corruption charges over the purchase of a bungalow below the market price in 2016, but they were controversially dropped in 2018 by then Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, after PH won federal power.
De facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan recently said that the MACC could also renew the probe into the bungalow purchase if new evidence emerges.
Mr Lim was Penang chief minister from 2008 to 2018, and early studies for the tunnel – designed to link Butterworth on the mainland to Georgetown on Penang island – began during his administration in 2016.
The third charge in Penang will be transferred to the KL courts next month, meaning both of his corruption trials will take place in the Malaysian capital.
Next mention of the case is scheduled for 9 September.