6 September 2018.
Former Penang chief minister, and current minister of finance, Lim Guan Eng purchased a property from a businesswoman Phang Li Koon at the asking price of RM2.8 million. The business woman made RM300,000 from the sale. At about this time Lim approved an application to convert agriculture land to a public housing zone in the southwest district to a company, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd. This company was owned by the aforesaid business woman Phang Li Koon. The property which Lim bought was later said to be valued at RM4.27 million.
Lim was charged with using his position as chief minister to gain gratification for himself and his wife Betty Chew by approving the application for conversion of agricultural land to a public housing zone in Balik Pulau to Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd.
After the 14th General Elections, Lim Guan Eng was sworn in as the finance minister.
The Attorney-General Chamber’s head of the Appellate and Trial Division, Datuk Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria, on Tuesday, decided to withdraw the case after considering “fresh evidence” that arose during the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses. In a statement Tuesday (4 Sept), DPP Datuk Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria said AG Tommy Thomas had recused himself in all deliberations regarding the case and he had no hand in the decision to enter nolle prosequi. Nolle prosequi is entered when the prosecutor does not propose to further prosecute the accused.
Prosecution sought an order for both accused to be discharged not amounting to an acquittal. Lim’s lawyers requested for a full acquittal, which judge Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail agreed to. On Monday (3 Sept), the Penang High Court acquitted both Lim and Phang of the corruption charges over the purchase of the bungalow at below market value. New Straits Times reported.
Batu Pahat Umno chief Mohd Puad Zarkashi alleged that attorney-general Tommy Thomas was behind the acquittal of Lim from graft charges, and the acquittal was politically motivated.
Some lawyers are calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry over the decision to withdraw the corruption charges against Lim and Phang Li Koon. Lawyers Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz and Gunamalar Joorindanjn have questioned Deputy Public Prosecutor Zakaria’s explanation. Star on line reported.
Bersih has called for the expediting of reforms to the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the MACC following concerns surrounding the decision to drop the prosecution against Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng. Bersih urged for an independent public prosecutor’s office to be established and separated from the attorney-general’s office. It said that it is necessary to clear public suspicion of the role of attorney-general, who acts as a legal adviser of the executive branch of the government, in influencing the prosecution decision.
Instead of hastily withdrawing the charges, it would have been better for Hanafiah Zakaria to proceed with the case. The case will fail if there were not enough evidence to show Lim was guilty. This would have cleared Lim Guan Eng fully of corruption. The government and the judiciary will also be proofed to be abiding by the law. There will be no accusation against the government or judiciary.