Malaysia CorruptionMalaysian former Finance Minister and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, center, leaves courthouse in Butterworth, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. Lim pleaded not guilty to a second graft charge relating to a $1.5 billion undersea tunnel project. Lim has slammed the charges as political persecution by the new government. (AP Photo/Gary Chuah)
PENANG, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia's former finance minister accused the government of taking political vengeance Tuesday after a third graft charge was filed against him and his wife was charged with money laundering.
Lim Guan Eng was part of a reformist government ousted in March and the new government under Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is supported by graft-tainted parties defeated in the 2018 general election.
At a news conference after his court hearing, Lim was visibly upset as he told reporters Muhyiddin’s government had targeted his family to break his spirit.
“They are caught in the crossfire. This is completely excessive, just too much. Go for me but leave my family alone,” Lim said. His wife, Betty Chew, was more emotional as she slammed as frivolous and baseless the charges against them, calling it “cruel and terrible.”
Lim, 59, pleaded not guilty to abusing his position as chief minister of Penang state to obtain gratification for his wife related to a workers' dormitory project.
Chew pleaded not guilty to three charges of receiving 372,009 ringgit ($88,584) in unlawful proceeds linked to the same project. A business acquaintance of Chew was also charged with abetting Lim.
Chew is a lawyer, and Lim said the money was her legal fees.
He was earlier charged with soliciting bribe and abusing his power related to a $1.5 billion undersea tunnel project.
Both projects were approved during Lim’s tenure as Penang chief minister from 2008-2018, before he became Malaysia’s finance minister.
Muhyiddin’s Malay-centric government has only a thin two-seat majority in Parliament. Some political observers said Lim’s prosecution could indicate a possibility of early elections, which are not due until 2023.
Rights groups have voiced concerns over his government's clampdown on dissent and media independence, with journalists and media groups being investigated.