Malaysia’s former finance minister Lim Guan Eng pleads not guilty to bribe charge

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).

He 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 Guan Eng
Malaysia’s former finance minister Lim Guan Eng is escorted by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers to Duta Court complex in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 7, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

Lim was charged at the Special Corruption Court on Friday morning. 

His arrest on Thursday night came after a months-long investigation into graft allegations over the undersea tunnel project, part of the Penang South Reclamation project.

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. 

Malaysia's former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng arrives at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lu
Malaysia’s former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng arrives at Kuala Lumpur High Court, Aug 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng)

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, 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.

According to a Thursday statement from the MACC, Lim will face two other charges in Penang next week.