BUTTERWORTH, Penang: Former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng and his wife Betty Chew Gek Cheng pleaded not guilty on Tuesday (Aug 11) to charges related to a RM11.6 million (S$3.8 million) project.
Lim was charged in his previous capacity as the Penang chief minister and chairman of the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) Procurement Board.
The 60-year-old is alleged to have used his position for gratification, involving about RM372,000 (S$121,600) for his wife through Excel Property Management & Consultancy.
Lim is said to have done so by ensuring Magnificent Emblem was awarded a dormitory project worth RM11,610,000, where Chew indirectly had interest.
READ: Former Malaysian finance minister Lim Guan Eng pleads not guilty to abusing position for RM3.3 million gratification
The Bagan Member of Parliament was charged with committing the offence between Aug 19, 2013 and Mar 3, 2016, at the office of the Penang chief minister in George Town, Penang.
The charge was framed under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009. If found guilty, Lim faces up to 20 years’ jail and a fine of not less than five times the sum or value of the gratification, or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
Meanwhile, Chew pleaded not guilty to three counts of money laundering by receiving RM372,009 from a company through her bank account.
For all three charges, Chew was alleged to have received RM87,009, RM180,000 and RM105,000 which were proceeds from unlawful activities from Excel Property Management & Consultancy.
The charges were made under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2002. If found guilty, she faces a fine of up to RM5 million, or imprisonment for up to five years, or both.
The charges on Tuesday are the latest in a string of accusations levelled against the former Malaysian finance minister.
On Monday, Lim pleaded not guilty to using his position to receive gratification of more than RM3.3 million to help a company secure the RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel project.
Lim was also charged in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court last Friday with soliciting gratification to help the company to secure the tunnel project.
The controversial undersea tunnel project, stretching 7.2km, will link Penang island from Persiaran Gurney to the mainland at Bagan Ajam. Work on the project is scheduled to begin in 2023.
Lim’s business partner, Phang Li Koon, was also charged on Tuesday with abetting him in committing the offence.
Lawyer V Sithambaram, who represented Phang, informed the court that the charge against his client was a double jeopardy.
He said the charge against his client on Tuesday was not a new one as Phang had been charged in an old case involving the same facts.
Citing Article 72 of the Federal Constitution, he said no person could be charged again for a charge that the accused had been acquitted of and discharged.
“We will file an objection on this matter,” he added.
Deputy public prosecutor Roslan Mat Nor then informed the court that the facts of the charge against Phang this time was not the same as before.
Prior to this, Phang had been charged with abetting Lim in connection with the purchase of a land lot and bungalow at below the market value. However, on Sep 3, 2018, the Penang High Court acquitted and discharged her of the charge.
“But what is certain, at that time, the facts of the prosecution case and the merits of the case were not heard in full yet, so the principle under Article 72 of the Federal Constitution does not apply," he said.
Lim was represented by lawyers Gobind Singh Deo and R S N Rayer, while lawyers Lee Khai, Sangeet Kaur Deo and Ramkarpal Singh represented Chew.
Among those seen at the court were Lim’s mother, Neo Yok Tee, his father Lim Kit Siang, Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow and former deputy prime minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.