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    Jul 01, 2016

    Penang chief minister pleads not guilty

    PENANG Chief Minister and prominent opposition leader Lim Guan Eng pleaded not guilty to two graft-related offences yesterday, the Malaysian media reported, in a case that has jolted the country.

    Mr Lim, 55, claimed trial to the charges related to his purchase of a bungalow at below market price last year and improper change of state land use at the Penang High Court. He was released on bail set at RM1 million (S$337,900).

    The vocal critic of Prime Minister Najib Razak had been formally charged at the Penang Sessions Court yesterday morning. It came after three months of accusations by ruling Umno party leaders that he had bought his house last year at RM2.8 million from a businesswoman with dealings with the state government, when the market value of the property was RM4.7 million.

    He faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted under Section 23 of the Anti-Corruption Act and Section 165 of the Penal Code.

    The businesswoman who sold the bungalow to him was also charged for abetting Lim to obtain a "valuable property" for RM2.5 million when it was valued at RM4.27 million.

    She has claimed trial.

    "He obtained the property knowing that you have business dealings with the state government," reads the charge.

    The High Court set case management for Sept 22 when it will consider whether to conduct a joint trial.

    Mr Lim, who has demanded Mr Najib to explain a massive financial scandal linked to state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, was arrested at his office on Wednesday by officers from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

    After spending the night in MACC custody, he was taken to the court at 10am yesterday in a motorcade of seven vehicles. He looked relaxed and was wearing his favourite red tie, Malaysiakini reported.

    He smiled and told reporters: "I am all right."

    Inside the courtroom, he hugged his teary mother, sister Hui Ying and wife Betty, who looked distraught, Malaysiakini reported.

    He shook hands with his father Kit Siang, adviser of his Chinese-majority Democratic Action Party (DAP).

    The public gallery at the Penang Sessions Court was filled to the brim with journalists, DAP supporters and other opposition politicians hours before Mr Lim's arrival around 10am.

    He has been chief minister of Penang since 2008 and has led the opposition DAP since 2004 as secretary-general.

    Mr Lim said after being released on bail: "For the time being, I will remain Penang Chief Minister.

    "But the state DAP committee will have a meeting to decide."