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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 21 — Lim Guan Eng’s corruption trial involving the Penang undersea tunnel project will begin in June next year, the Sessions Court here decided today.
Judge Azura Alwi, following a short deliberation with both Deputy Public Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin and lead defence counsel Gobind Singh Deo, who is also Puchong MP, then set June 8 to June 11 as the first week of Lim’s trial.
Trial dates were also set for July through December 2021, with a total of 31 days scheduled.
Wan Shaharuddin also told the court that the prosecution expects to call 80 to 90 witnesses to testify in the trial.
Lim, who arrived in the courtroom at 9am, was accompanied in court by his wife Betty Chew and several party members including his father Lim Kit Siang and Ipoh Timur MP Wong Kah Wah.
Outside the court, DAP lawmakers Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng, Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai and Kota Melaka MP Khoo Poay Tiong were also on hand in a show of support for their party secretary-general.
Earlier during proceedings, Azura allowed for an application by the prosecution to add amendments to Lim’s original charge which was framed under Section 16(a)(A) of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 for corruptly soliciting a bribe.
The additional information inserted into the charge saw an estimated time included for when the offence was allegedly committed back in March 2011, without an actual date.
Lim then had the amended charges read out to him again in court, where he claimed trial to the accusations.
According to the charge sheet, Lim is accused of soliciting gratification to help a company to secure the Penang undersea tunnel project, in his capacity as the Chief Minister of Penang then.
He is alleged to have sought 10 per cent of the profit to be made by the company from Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli, who is a director at Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd.
The offence allegedly took place near The Gardens Hotel at Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City in March 2011, between 12.30am and 2am.
The offence under Sect 16 (a)(A) of the MACC Act is punishable under Section 24 of the same act, where upon conviction carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the value of the gratification, or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
Azura also allowed the prosecution’s application for Lim’s three other charges, one under Section 23 of the MACC Act for abuse of power, and two under Section 403 of the Penal Code for dishonest misappropriation of property, to be transferred from the Butterworth Sessions Court to hers in the capital.
This also meant that these four charges will be tried together when trial proceedings begin in June before judge Azura.
With the transfer, all three charges were again read out to Lim as he claimed trial to all the accusations, with March 29 set as the next court for case management.
The abuse of power charge accuses Lim of using his position as the Penang Chief Minister back in 2017 for gratification amounting RM3.3 million, as an inducement for helping Zarul Ahmad’s company to secure the undersea tunnel project, valued at RM6.3 million.
Azura also allowed for amendments to be made on the abuse of power charge, with several words removed from the original wordings.
The charges involving the dishonest misappropriation of properties accused the DAP leader of two counts of causing as many plots of land belonging to the Penang government worth RM208.8 million to be disposed of to two companies linked to the state’s undersea tunnel project.
The first charge accuses Lim of causing the Penang Land Registrar to dispose of property belonging to the state government, namely, Lot Tanah No. H.S. (D) 18801, No. PT Lot 702 Seksyen 1, Bandar Tanjong Pinang, Daerah Timor Laut, Penang, worth RM135,086,094 to Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd.
On the second charge, he was accused of causing the Penang Land Registrar to dispose of Lot Tanah No.H.S. (D) 19318, No. PT Lot 10012 Seksyen 1, Bandar Tanjong Pinang, Daerah Timor Laut, worth RM73,668,986 to Zenith Urban Development Sdn Bhd.
Both of these offences, which were read out in the Butterworth Sessions Court on September 11, was alleged to have been committed at the Penang Land and Mines Office, Level 21, Komtar, on February 17, 2015, and March 22, 2017.