GEORGE TOWN, April 9, 2018 : The High Court here today granted the application by the defence for the corruption trial of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon to be adjourned.
Bernama reported that Justice Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail fixed May 21 for continuation of the trial as set earlier after taking into account that Lim would be involved in the 14th general election (GE14).
Lim’s counsel Gobind Singh Deo had applied for the trial to be postponed, tendering an apology to the court for the accused’s absence today due to official matters.
“I’m applying for an adjournment as Parliament has been dissolved by the Prime Minister. So we need to prepare for the election. We do not know when the election is going to be held; I propose that proceedings be adjourned to early May for case management to determine the direction of the trial,” he said.
However, the request was objected to by the prosecution led by deputy public prosecutor Datuk Masri Mohd Daud who urged the court to proceed with the trial.
But the judge allowed the defence’s request, saying, “I cannot proceed with the case without the accused being present; I also cannot wait for the accused”.
She fixed May 10 for case management to settle any issues related to the election, adding, “The trial will recommence on May 21 till May 25 as set earlier”.
After getting the adjournment, Gobind and other lawyers representing Lim in the case held a media conference in the vicinity of the courthouse to explain the situation. Lim was also present.
Outside the court, Masri told the media that the prosecution had 14 witnesses ready to give their testimonies today.
“We object to the adjournment because the Election Commission has not set the date yet for nomination of candidates. We could still have continued with the trial this week. The counsel’s grounds to adjourn the case were not solid,” he said.
Lim and Phang pleaded not guilty to the charges against them on March 26.
For the first amended charge, Lim was accused of using his position as a public officer to gain gratification for himself and his wife Betty Chew Gek Cheng, by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone in southwest Penang to a company, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd.
Lim, 58, was charged with committing the offence while chairing the Penang State Planning Committee meeting at the operations room, Level 28, Komtar building here, on July 18, 2014.
The amended charge involved the change of “civil servant” to “public officer”.
If Lim is found guilty of the charge under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act, he faces imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.
For the second amended charge, Lim was accused of using his position to obtain for himself a plot of land and a bungalow, located at 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, from Phang for RM2.8mil, a price which he allegedly knew was not commensurate with the property’s then market value of RM4.27mil.
The offence was allegedly committed at 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town here on Oct 21, 2015 (instead of July 28, 2015 as stated in the original charge).
The charge was framed under Section 165 of the Penal Code, which provides a sentence of imprisonment for up to two years, a fine or both upon conviction.
Phang also pleaded not guilty to an amended charge with abetting Lim in obtaining the bungalow at an undervalued price at the same place and date.
She was charged under Section 109 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 165 of the same law, which provides an imprisonment for up to two years, a fine or both upon conviction.