KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s former finance minister Lim Guan Eng pleaded not guilty on Friday to a corruption charge related to the 6.3 billion ringgit ($1.5 billion) Penang undersea tunnel project.
Lim appeared in a Kuala Lumpur sessions court accused of having bribed a businessman when he was chief minister of Penang in return for helping to appoint the man’s company to the project.
According to state media outlet Bernama, Lim is accused of seeking a 10-percent cut of the profit to be made by the company, and is suspected of committing the offense near a hotel in Mid Valley City in the southwest of the capital in March 2011.
The charge, under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, carries a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment and a hefty fine.
The court set bail at 1 million ringgit with half paid Friday and the remaining amount to be paid on Monday. His passports were to be surrendered to the court.
Lim is expected to face more charges in Penang related to abuse of power next week, according to local media.
The 59-year-old is secretary general of the opposition Democratic Action Party and member of parliament for Bagan.
Lim was Penang’s chief minister from 2008 until his appointment as finance minister in 2018, a position he held until February when the coalition led by then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad collapsed.
His allies claim the case is politically motivated.
The 7.2-kilometer undersea tunnel projected aimed to connect Penang capital Georgetown to Butterworth on the mainland.