Malaysian finance minister cleared in corruption case

News Desk | Agence France-Presse | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Jakarta, posted: Mon, September 3, 2018 | 07:47 pm

This photograph taken on May 10, 2018 shows Malaysia's new Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng attending a press conference in Kuala Lumpur. Roslan RAHMAN / AFP(AFP/Roslan Rahman)

Malaysia's finance minister was Monday cleared of corruption charges brought against him by the former government, which critics said were a bid to neutralise a potent political threat, official media reported.

Lim Guan Eng is a leading politician in the reformist alliance that unexpectedly swept to power at May elections, toppling the coalition that had ruled Malaysia for 61 years and was criticised for becoming increasingly authoritarian.

Lim was a vocal critic of the former leader Najib Razak, who allegedly had a central role in a massive financial scandal that helped persuade voters to boot him out of power.

Lim went on trial in March when he was still chief minister of northern Penang state and was accused of one count of corruption in allegedly purchasing a house at below-market value. 

A second charge related to abusing his position over re-zoning some public land for development. 

The High Court in the state cleared him of the charges on Monday after the attorney-general's office agreed to withdraw them, official news agency Bernama reported.

He had faced up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

Businesswoman Phang Li Koon, who was accused of abetting Lim in the purchase of the house, was also acquitted.

Lim and Phang hugged each other in the dock when the decision was delivered, Bernama reported.

However the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which had been investigating the case, said it was "shocked".

"The MACC stresses that this decision was made by the Attorney-General's Chambers and not the MACC," the agency said in a statement.

Since his election loss, Najib has been arrested and charged over a scandal surrounding sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. The ex-leader and his cronies are accused of looting billions of dollars from the investment vehicle. 

He denies any wrongdoing.

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Malaysia corruption