KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s former minister for finance Lim Guan Eng has pleaded not guilty to a corruption charge over the RM6.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) Penang undersea tunnel project on Friday (Aug 7).
Lim was accused of asking for a 10 per cent cut from the profits of the project when he was Penang chief minister.
He allegedly solicited the bribe from Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli, whose company was appointed by the state government to implement the roads and tunnel project. He was accused of committing the offence near a hotel in Kuala Lumpur in March 2011.
Lim, 59, was charged under Section 16(a)(A) of the MACC Act 2009, which carries a fine up to five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, and a jail term of up to 20 years.
He was brought to the Special Corruption Court on Friday morning amid intense media presence.
His arrest on Thursday night came after a months-long investigation into graft allegations over the undersea tunnel project, part of the Penang Transport Master Plan.
The 7.2km undersea tunnel was planned to connect Penang’s state capital George Town to mainland Butterworth.
Lim, who is the secretary-general of Democratic Action Party, was Penang chief minister from 2008 until his appointment as the finance minister in 2018.
Previously, he had been charged with two counts of abuse of power for approving a land deal and the purchase of a bungalow below market price.
The charges were dismissed after Barisan Nasional (BN) led by then-prime minister Najib Razak was defeated by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition in the 2018 elections.
Najib has since been sentenced to 12 years’ jail and fined approximately US$50 million on Jul 28, after being found guilty in his first 1MDB-related trial.
The PH coalition led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad had earlier collapsed in February and replaced by Perikatan Nasional, which is made up of BN component parties and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
LIM MAINTAINS HIS INNOCENCE
Speaking to reporters after posting bail, Lim described the charge as a "baseless allegation" and "politically motivated" to tarnish his reputation.
“I want to stress that I never received any gratification, and I’ve 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,” he said.
The politician added that the undersea tunnel project was awarded on an open tender basis, and to date, "not a single cent" has been paid for the tunnel project.
"I will fight to prove my innocence in court, and I believe that truth will show that I have not received any gratification and there is no corruption," he said.
According to a Thursday statement from the MACC, Lim will face two other charges in Penang next week.
Separately, his wife and sister have been called in by the Penang MACC, local media reported.