GEORGE TOWN: A pale-looking Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng entered the High Court looking solemn but emerged about half an hour later relieved and smiling after being allowed a RM1mil bail on two charges of corrupt practices.
Lim, 56, who was dressed immaculately in a striking red tie with silver polka dots against a white shirt and black coat, is the first Penang Chief Minister to be charged in court.
In the High Court yesterday, Lim claimed trial to using his position as a public servant to obtain gratification for himself and his wife Betty Chew, by approving an application by Magnificent Emblem to convert two lots of agricultural land in the southwest district for residential purposes during a state planning committee meeting on July 18, 2014.
The offence under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 (Act 694), punishable under Section 24 of the same Act, carries a jail term of not more than 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the value of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
Lim also denied another charge under Section 165 of the Penal Code of using his position to obtain gratification by purchasing his house from Phang at RM2.8mil, which was below the property’s market value of RM4.27mil on July 28, 2015.
The offence is punishable with a maximum two years’ jail, a fine, or both, upon conviction.
Meanwhile, businesswoman Phang Li Koon, 44, was slapped with an abetment charge for allegedly selling the bungalow on Pinhorn Road to Lim on July 28, 2015 at below its actual market value.
The offence under Section 109 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 165 of the Penal Code, carries a jail term of up to two years, a fine, or both upon conviction.
Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, who led the prosecution team yesterday, proposed bail of RM1mil in one surety for Lim on both charges, with additional conditions that Lim informed the court and the Attorney-General’s Chambers two days before leaving the country.
He also applied for both Lim and Phang’s cases to be jointly heard.
Phang’s counsel Datuk K. Kumaraendran requested for time to study the documents first.
The proceedings in the High Court started at 11.44am yesterday but the public gallery at the High Court was filled up around 10.45am, mostly with supporters, family members and press men, some of whom were denied entry into the courtroom.
Many of those who managed to get in a bit later, had to stand to watch the proceedings.
Soon after the court interpreter read out the charge to Lim, who was standing in the dock, he replied “tidak salah dan minta bicara” (not guilty and request for trial).
Minutes after he had entered the court, Lim was seen looking for his parents who were not in the public gallery after the courtroom doors were locked from the inside.
He then requested for his parents to be allowed in and they eventually entered, together with his sister Hui Ying.
Phang, who was in a black and white dress and black pants, looked tired and sombre when the charge was read out to her.
She merely nodded her head and uttered “saya faham” (I understand), before claiming trial.
Two of her sisters and a brother were in the courtroom.
Judicial Commissioner Datuk Azmi Ariffin allowed Lim bail of RM1mil and Phang, bail of RM200,000, pending case management on Sept 22. Both posted bail.
Lim and Phang had arrived at the Sessions Court together at 10.05am.
This prompted members of the public, who were waiting from as early as 7.30am, to whip out their smartphones and start snapping photos. They were given stern warning by the policemen who told them taking photos was prohibited.
Lim’s father Kit Siang, mother Neo Yok Tee and Hui Ying arrived about 10 minutes before him. Neo was seen weeping softly while hugging her son.
She was approached by reporters after she returned to her seat and she said: “I am fine. Thank you for your concern.”
No plea was recorded in the lower court as Mohamed Apandi requested for the cases to be transferred to the High Court, which was allowed by Sessions judge Roslan Hamid.