GEORGE TOWN: 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.
Justice Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail fixed May 21 as the new trial date 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.
The trial commenced on March 26 and continued on March 27, after which the defence applied to postpone the case as Gobind and Lim wanted to attend the tabling of the Electoral Boundary Redelineation proposal and Anti-Fake News Bill 2018.
The court had initially fixed March 26 till March 30 and April 9 till April 12 for trial. The prosecution has called 25 witnesses and expected to call another 29.
On the first charge, Lim allegedly, as a public official or Penang chief minister abused his position to approve conversion of agricultural land to public housing zone in Southwest District, Penang for Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd, in his own and his wife Betty Chew Gek Cheng’s interest.
Lim, 58, is accused of committing the offence while chairing a Penang State Planning Committee meeting at the operations room on 28th floor of Komtar, George Town here on July 18.
The charge under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 carries on conviction a maximum 20 years imprisonment and fine of not less than five times the amount involved, or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
On the second charge, Lim allegedly, as a public official or Penang chief minister corruptly acquired for himself a piece of land and a house at No 25, Jalan Pinhorn, George Town here, for an undervalued price of RM2.8 million from Phang Li Koon, who he allegedly knew had interest in his official duties, .
The market value of the property then was said to be RM4.27 million.
Lim is accused of committing the offence at No 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town here on Oct 21, 2015, under Section 165 of the Penal Code which carries a jail term of up to two years or a fine, or both, on conviction.
Meanwhile, Phang is accused of an amended charge of abetting Lim at the same place and date, under Section 109 read together with Section 165 of the Penal Code. – Bernama