GEORGE TOWN: After two years and having heard the testimony of 25 witnesses, the High Court here freed Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon of corruption charges involving the alleged conversion of a land status and purchase of a bungalow below market value.
Justice Hadhariah Syed Ismail ordered that both Lim and Phang be given a discharge amounting to an acquittal and released immediately.
The prosecution, following a representation made by the defence team to the Attorney General’s Chambers, decided to withdraw the case yesterday. The prosecution, however, had applied for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA).
Justice Hadhariah, in her ruling, said the case could not be closed if the court allowed the DNAA application.
“To date, 25 witnesses have been called to testify, with 20 more to go, and the last hearing was in March.
“We will not conduct the cases by instalment, with commas between, or leave the charges hanging.
“There is no such thing as calling the witnesses in six months’ time, especially with this case being of public interest.
“Hence, after studying the situation and the long duration of the case, it has been decided that both accused be discharged amounting to acquittal,” she said.
When the court adjourned, Lim, whose right palm was bandaged due to a fractured finger, hugged Phang.
There were more than 30 supporters in the courtroom.
Among them were state exco members Phee Boon Poh and Chong Eng, assemblymen Teh Lai Heng, Ong Ah Teong, Wong Hon Wai, Joseph Ng and Daniel Gooi.
Berapit assemblyman Heng Lee Lee, who was previously Lim’s press secretary, and Phang’s three sisters were also there.
To celebrate his release, Lim brought them to a Starbucks outlet across the courthouse for coffee.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and Lim’s wife Betty Chew were not present.
Outside the courtroom, Lim thanked his supporters and lawyers, and was grateful that the stress he faced from the case for the past two years was finally over.
“Such accusations have brought much pressure to me, Phang and our families.
“I’m thankful that it has finally come to an end and we have cleared our names.
“I also thank Phang who stood by me through this ordeal,” he said, adding that after this, it would be back to work for him towards making Malaysia better.
Lim’s counsel Ramkarpal Singh said the High Court’s decision put an end to the matter and there would be no further prosecution on the two charges.
“So, that is the end of the matter as far as we are concerned.
“There cannot be any further prosecution on those two charges in light of the High Court order,” he said.
Lim was sworn in as Finance Minister on May 21, following Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the May 9 polls.
Lim, who was former Penang chief minister, and Phang were on trial for charges involving the alleged conversion of land from agriculture to residential status, and the purchase of a plot of land and a bungalow at below market value.
He was charged with using his position as chief minister to gain gratification for himself and his wife by approving the application for conversion of agricultural land to a public housing zone in Balik Pulau to Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd.
Lim faced a second charge of using his position to obtain a plot of land and bungalow at No. 25, Jalan Pinhorn, on July 28, 2015, from Phang for RM2.8mil, at below market value.
Lim was also represented by counsel R.S.N Rayer and Reubankumar Asokan, while Phang was represented by Datuk V. Sithambaram and Hisyam Teh Poh Teik.
DPPs Abdul Rashid Daud, Mohd Ashrof Adrin Kamarul and Mohd Zain Ibrahim were for the prosecution.