BUTTERWORTH: Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng has been slapped with his third corruption charge in five days while his wife Betty Chew Gek Cheng is facing three charges of money laundering.
Lim, who was charged under Section 16(a)(A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption (MACC) Act 2009 on Friday and again under Section 23(1) of the MACC Act 2009 on Monday, pleaded not guilty yesterday to abusing his public office for gratification under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 when he was chief minister and Penang Development Corporation chairman between Aug 19, 2013, and March 3, 2016.
Lim, 60, is charged with getting RM372,009 for his wife Chew through Excel Property Management and Consultancy Sdn Bhd to ensure that Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd received an offer to build foreign workers dormitories in Juru and Batu Kawan worth RM11.61mil.
The offence under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 is punishable under Section 24(1) of the same Act and carries a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.
Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib requested bail to be set at RM100,000.
But defence counsel Gobind Singh Deo said it was excessive, considering Lim’s bail of RM1mil in Kuala Lumpur for the earlier charges.
Special Corruption Sessions Court judge Ahmad Azhari Abdul Hamid set bail at RM50,000 in one surety.
In the same courtroom, Chew, 56, was charged with three counts of money laundering.
She is accused of receiving RM87,009 in illegal revenue from Excel Property Management and Consultancy into her bank account between Oct 7, 2013 and Aug 4, 2014.
The charge under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 carries a fine up to RM5mil or maximum five years’ jail, or both, upon conviction.
She faces two more charges of receiving a total of RM285,000 in illegal revenue from the same company, of which RM180,000 was allegedly received between Sept 3, 2014, and Aug 11, 2015, and RM105,000 between Sept 4, 2015 and March 3, 2016.
Both charges under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 carries a jail term of up to 15 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount received or RM5mil, whichever is higher, if convicted.
Chew’s lawyer, Ramkarpal Singh, objected to Ahmad Akram’s request for Chew to surrender her passport.
“There is no need to impound her passport,” he told the court.
“She is a mother of four, with three children based in Penang. There is no sign that she is a flight risk.
“She is a housewife now,” he added.
Ahmad Azhari set bail at RM50,000 in one surety and did not ask Chew to surrender her passport.
The third person charged yesterday was businesswoman Phang Li Koon, 48, a director of Excel Property Management and Consultancy.
She was charged with abetting Lim in gaining the RM372,009 for his wife.
Phang is charged under Section 28(1)(c) of the MACC Act 2009.
Ahmad Azhari set bail at RM50,000 in one surety and did not ask Phang to surrender her passport.
Lawyers Gobind Singh Deo, RSN Rayer, V. Vemal Arasan and Ramkarpal represented Lim.
Ramkarpal also represented Chew with Sangeet Kaur Deo and Lee Khai. Phang was represented by Datuk V. Sithambaram and A. Rueban Kumar.
The DPP team, led by Ahmad Akram, was supported by Mohd Mukhzany Fariz Mohd Mokhtar, Roslan Mat Nor and Francine Cheryl Rajendram.
Ahmad Azhari set Oct 16 for case mention and for the prosecution to apply to combine the cases to be heard together.
Later, at a press conference held at Lim’s Bagan constituency service centre, Lim said his wife and Phang were caught in a politically motivated “crossfire” against him.
“My wife was a lawyer and she paid taxes for the legal fees she received.
“The tender for the foreign workers dormitories were called again and another company won the tender,” he said.
An emotional Chew said she was perplexed by the three charges against her.
“Why me? I’m not a ‘tai kah cheh’ or ‘kak long’ (Cantonese and Malay respectively for “big sister”).
“Is it because I am Lim’s wife? Is it because you want to break my relationship with him, then only you will let me go?
“All these people who are doing this to us, God is watching you. I hope one day, you will get what you have done to us,” she said.
Penang Pakatan Harapan’s women’s wing also gave a press conference and expressed support for Chew.
On Friday, Lim was accused of soliciting a 10% cut of profits from Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd in March 2011 in exchange for helping the company secure the RM6.3bil Penang undersea tunnel project.
The charge under Section 16(a)(A) of the MACC Act 2009 carries a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher, if convicted.
On Monday, Lim was accused of soliciting a bribe of RM3.3mil from Consortium Zenith Construction between Jan 2011 and Aug 2017 in exchange for helping the company be appointed as the builder of three roads related to the Penang Undersea Tunnel project.
The charge under Section 23(1) of MACC Act 2009 carries a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher, if convicted.