The corruption trial of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon set for March 27 has been postponed until their appeal to challenge the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act is settled.
High Court Judge Hadhariah Syed Ismail allowed the application by counsel Gobind Singh Deo, who represented Lim, to stay the trial pending the outcome of their appeal in the Court of Appeal, and set April 25 for case management.
On March 7, the court rejected a petition by Lim and Phang to declare Section 62 of the MACC Act 2009 as unconstitutional and void.
Lim and Phang filed the application in January this year. Section 62 states that once the prosecution submits documents pursuant to Section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code, the accused shall, before the trial begins, submit the
following documents: (a) a statement of defence and (b) a copy of any document that can be presented as part of the evidence for the defence.
On June 30 last year, Lim pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption in the conversion of land from agriculture to housing, and the purchase of a plot of land and bungalow at below market value.
For the first charge, Lim was accused as a civil servant, namely the Penang Chief Minister, of using his position to obtain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew Gek Cheng, by approving the conversion of agricultural land
to residential in the south-west of Penang for a company, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd.
Lim, 56, allegedly committed the offence while chairing a meeting of the Penang State Planning Committee in the Operations Room, 8th Floor, Komtar tower on July 18, 2014.
He was charged under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 which provides for a jail-term of up to 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the amount of graft involved, or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.
On the second charge, Lim was accused as a civil servant of obtaining for himself a plot of land and a bungalow at No 25, Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, at a price which he knew did not commensurate with its value from Phang, at RM2.8 million, when its market value at the time was RM4.27 million.
He allegedly committed the offence at No 25, Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, on July 28, 2015 in accordance with Section 165 of the Penal Code which provides for a jail term of up to two years, or fine, or both upon conviction.
Phang, as the former owner of the bungalow, pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring with Lim for him to obtain the bungalow at below market price at the same place and date.
The businesswoman was charged under Section 109 of the Penal Code read together with Section 165, which provides for a jail term of up to two years, or fine, or both, if convicted.
Outside the court, Gobind told reporters he had filed a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal against the court's decision to reject his client's petition.
"Should the Court of Appeal allow the appeal, it will affect any defence during the trial. In this situation, it's better to have the Court of Appeal hear and decide on the issue before this (corruption) case takes place," he said.
Meanwhile, DPP Masri Mohd Daud said the prosecution agreed with the counsel's application to suspend the corrption trial after considering all the factors.
He said they were also in the process of requesting the Court of Appeal to expedite the hearing.