Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Malaysia’s ex-finance minister charged with bribery over undersea tunnel project

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Malaysia’s former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng was charged with corruption over an undersea tunnel project in northern Penang state.

Prosecutors accused Lim of asking for 10% of future profit in exchange for helping a company win the contract to undertake Penang transport projects including the undersea tunnel. Lim pleaded not guilty in a Kuala Lumpur court on Friday. If convicted, he would face up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of no less than five times the value of the bribe.

He will face a related charge in Penang on Aug. 10, and another charge on a separate case on Aug. 11, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said in an earlier statement.

Lim, who was finance minister under the Pakatan Harapan administration that collapsed in February, remains the leader of one of the biggest opposition parties. The allegations may undermine the opposition coalition’s effort to challenge Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government, which rose to power without an election.

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The criminal charge against Lim comes after the opposition bloc lost power in the state of Sabah, which was among four of seven states that the coalition maintained a hold on after its government fell. For months, Pakatan Harapan has sought to launch a motion of no-confidence against Muhyiddin, who holds a razor-thin majority in parliament. Both sides of the aisle have stepped up talks of a possible snap election.

As chief minister of Penang for a decade, Lim had been credited for helping develop the state into a manufacturing powerhouse and one of the largest contributors to the country’s economy despite its small size. The anti-graft agency first opened an investigation into Penang’s undersea tunnel project in 2017.

In 2018, Lim had been discharged amounting to acquittal on separate corruption charges.

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