A PROMINENT Malaysian opposition leader and critic of Prime Minister Najib Razak was charged by authorities for corruption on Thursday.
The arrest of Lim Guan Eng, chief minister of the northern Penang state, is likely to provoke accusations of a government-led witch hunt, which itself faces allegations of massive corruption in a US$1.8 billion scandal involving a state investment fund.
Lim has led Penang, one of three states run by the opposition, since 2008. His father, Lim Kit Siang, said earlier that his son was expected to be charged Thursday with two counts of graft, including allegedly purchasing a mansion in Penang at below market value. The chief minister’s possible jailing is a blow to an already weakened opposition.
Apart from the bungalow unit purchase, Lim was also charged for alleged abuse of power after he rezoned a plot of land from agriculture to commercial use, reported MalaysiaKini.
— Melissa Goh (@MelGohCNA) June 30, 2016
The businesswoman who sold the bungalow to Lim, Phang Li Khoon, was also charged at the Georgetown Sessions Court.
Malaysia’s Attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali is leading the prosecution on the duo, while Lim was represented by 10 legal counsels led by Gobind Singh Deo, also a prominent politician and lawyer from Lim’s Democratic Action Party (DAP).
Phang was alleged to have abetted Lim to obtain a “valuable property” for RM2.8 million (US$695,000) in July last year. At the time of purchase, the property was valued at RM4.27 million (US$1.17 million). She is accused of selling the house while having other business dealings with the state government.
Praying for you @cmlimguaneng! Don't worry we stand with you.
— Hannah Yeoh (@hannahyeoh) June 29, 2016
Lim claimed trial, pleading not guilty to both charges at the High Court. His bail was set at RM1 million, but Judicial Commissioner Azmi Ariffin did not order Lim to surrender his passport. However, Lim was instructed to notify authorities two days before he travels overseas.
About 100 people packed the courtroom while about 1,000 supporters crowded outside the court complex to show solidarity for Lim. His staunchest supporters were among those who camped outside the state Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission office following his arrest yesterday evening.
— Charles Santiago (@mpklang) June 29, 2016
Additional reporting by Associated Press