The High Court in Georgetown today fixed 23 days, beginning March 26, to hear the corruption case involving Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businessperson Phang Li Koon in connection with the purchase of a bungalow at below market price.
Judge Hadhariah Syed Ismail set the dates when the case came up for mention.
Earlier, deputy public prosecutor Masri Mohd Daud noted that the Federal Court had ruled Section 62 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 was not in breach of the Federal Constitution.
“We are all aware that this case is delayed due to the wait for the decision from the court. The Federal Court has ruled that Section 62 is not ultra vires of the constitution.
“Today too, we also want to tender amended charges against the two accused. Considering that both the accused are not present in court today, we will do so before the hearing starts,” he said.
The prosecution will call 40 witnesses during the hearing.
Masri also proposed to the court for the hearing to begin in February, but lawyer Gobind Singh Deo (photo), representing Lim, requested the trial to be held in March, as he had other cases to attend to in February, including several under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.
Following which, Hadhariah fixed March 26 to 30, April 9 to 12, April 23 to 27, May 7 to 10 and May 21 to 25 for the hearing.
On Dec 14 last year, the Federal Court ruled that Section 62 of the MACC Act was constitutional, and therefore set aside the Court of Appeal’s decision which ruled the section, read together with Section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code, was ultra vires of Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution, read together with Article 8(1).
A panel of five judges, headed by Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif, made the ruling after allowing the appeal by MACC against the Court of Appeal’s decision, which overturned the Penang High Court verdict on Section 62, which required the accused persons to disclose their defence statements to the prosecution before the commencement of the trial.
On Aug 7 last year, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeals brought by Lim and Phang (photo) against the Penang High Court’s decision in dismissing their application to declare Section 62 as unconstitutional and reversed the ruling.
Section 62 of the MACC Act states that once delivery of documents by the prosecution pursuant to Section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code has taken place, the accused shall, before the commencement of the trial, deliver the following documents to the prosecution:
(a) a defence statement setting out in general terms the nature of the defence and the matters on which the accused takes issue with the prosecution, with reasons; and,
(b) a copy of any document which will be tendered as part of the evidence for the defence.
On June 30 last year, Lim pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption in relation to the conversion of land from agricultural to residential and the purchase of a plot of land and bungalow at below market value.
Lim, 58, was charged with using his position as a civil servant, namely, Penang chief minister, to gain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew Gek Cheng, by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone in southwest Penang to a company, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd.
He allegedly committed the offence while chairing the Penang State Planning Committee meeting at the operations room, Level 28, Komtar building here, on July 18, 2014.
The charge under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years, and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the bribe, or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.
Lim faces a second charge of using his position to obtain for himself a plot of land and a bungalow located at No 25, Jalan Pinhorn, George Town on July 28, 2015 from Phang for RM2.8 million, a price which he allegedly knew did not commensurate with the property’s then market value of RM4.27 million.
The charge, under Section 165 of the Penal Code, provides for a jail term of up to two years, or a fine, or both, upon conviction.
Phang pleaded not guilty to abetting Lim in obtaining the bungalow at an undervalued cost. She allegedly committed the offence at the same place and date.
The charge under Section 109 of the Penal Code read together with Section 165, provides for imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine, or both, upon conviction.
Also present at today’s proceeding were lawyers RSN Rayer, who also represented Lim, and V Sithambaram and Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, representing Phang.