Malaysian Opposition Figure Arrested on Corruption Charges

S. Adie Zul
Penang, Malaysia
160629-MY-Lim-620 Officers with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) take Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng into custody from his office in George Town, June 29, 2016.
S. Adie Zul/BenarNews

A top Malaysian opposition leader and staunch critic of Prime Minister Najib Razak's alleged involvement in a corruption scandal was himself arrested Wednesday on graft charges.

Lim Guan Eng, chief minister of the northern state of Penang and secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), will be produced in court on two charges of graft on Thursday, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said in a statement.

Lim and a businesswoman were arrested following a directive from the office of the attorney general "to charge them in court tomorrow," the commission said.

Among the charges was the purchase of a bungalow by Lim last year, which complainants claimed was at a below-market price of 2.8 million ringgit ($693,000), party officials said.

The house is worth more than double that amount, some MPs from Najib's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party have said.

The MACC announced last month that it had completed its probe into the bungalow purchase and submitted the investigation papers to Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Lim had denied any allegations of impropriety, saying in a statement earlier that the purchase was "an arms-length transaction between me and the seller on a willing buyer and willing seller basis."

Lim, who could be jailed if convicted of the charges, introduced open tenders for contracts and publicly declared his personal assets when his party took power of Penang state in 2008, pledging a clean government.

Lim, whose father, Lim Kit Siang, is a veteran opposition leader, leads one of three states run by the opposition. It has been attacking Najib over his links to a mammoth financial scandal tied to state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Since July 2015, Najib has faced calls for his resignation amid allegations over the deposit into his private bank accounts of nearly U.S. $700 million in 1MDB-linked money. The PM has refused to step down, maintaining that he never took any of the money for personal gain.

1MDB and Najib have been the targets of investigations after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported in July that nearly $681 million ended up in his private accounts. Since then, the newspaper reported that Najib had spent millions of dollars of money linked to 1MDB to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Malaysia’s attorney general has cleared Najib of any wrongdoing.

‘All-out assault’ on opposition

Ahead of his court appearance on Thursday, Lim asked his supporters in the state "to stay strong facing this political crisis," DAP chief for Penang Chow Kon Yeow said in a statement.

"Penang DAP believes these allegations are politically motivated to kill the political career of [Lim]," he said.

Around 300 people, among them DAP members and opposition supporters, attended a candlelight vigil at the Penang's MACC office in a show of support for Guan Eng.

They shouted "Free Guan Eng" and "Arrest prime minister," according to a BenarNews correspondent who was at the scene.

A minister in Najib's office, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who had raised Lim's purchase of the bungalow in March this year, said in a statement on Wednesday that "there are wrongdoings within the transaction and the people of Penang deserve nothing but the truth."

"It is clear, DAP’s slogan of being the most clean political party in Malaysia does not hold water, post Lim Guan Eng’s arrest by MACC today," he said.

But opposition lawmaker Charles Santiago described the arrest as an "act of intimidation and abuse," the Associated Press reported.

Another lawmaker, Tian Chua, said it could be a "prelude to an all-out assault on the entire opposition."


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