Penang High Court acquits Guan Eng, Phang of corruption

Audrey Dermawan
Penang High Court acquits Guan Eng, Phang of corruption

GEORGE TOWN: Former chief minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon was granted a discharge amounting to acquittal by the High Court here today over their corruption case.

This followed an application made by the Deputy Public Prosecutor, following a representation sent by the defence to the Attorney-General, to withdraw the case.

However, the Deputy Public Prosecution had applied for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal when the case was brought up in court this morning.

Both Lim and Phang’s counsels had requested for a full acquittal.

Judge Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail, in her judgment, agreed with the counsels that the charges “cannot be hanging over the head of the accused indefinitely”.

“I cannot agree with the prosecution. We do not conduct cases on an instalment basis. There must be a stop. No comma, comma.

“So after studying the whole case, and the long duration to get the decision, the court orders both accused to be discharged amounting to an acquittal,” she said.

As soon as the court stood down, Lim, 58, who is currently the Finance Minister, was seen hugging Phang, 46.

Speaking to newsmen later, Lim thanked his lawyers, family, friends and supporters for placing their utmost trust in him.

“I am definitely grateful that justice has prevailed at the end with our acquittal,” he said, maintaining that the charges against him were defamatory in nature from the state.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk Masri Mohd Daud led the prosecution team, while Lim was represented by lead counsel Ramkarpal Singh and Phang by Datuk V. Sithambaram.

The long-awaited trial began on March 26 this year, and was subsequently postponed pending the 14th General Election.

On June 30, 2016, Lim claimed trial to using his position as a public officer, namely, the then Chief Minister of Penang, to gain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew Gek Cheng.

He was accused of doing so by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone in the southwest district to a company, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd.

He was charged with committing the offence while chairing the 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 for 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.

In the second charge, Lim also claimed trial to using his position to obtain for himself a plot of land and a house, located at No 25, Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, 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 offence was allegedly committed at No 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town here on Oct 21, 2015.

The charge was under Section 165 of the Penal Code, which provides an imprisonment for up to two years, or a fine, or both.

Phang was charged with abetting Lim in obtaining the bungalow at an undervalued cost 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 for up to two years, or a fine, or both, upon conviction. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd