Monday, March 28, 2016

Lim Guan Eng's Corruption? What is it all about?

Now, we have an allegation of corruption against Lim Guan Eng, the Chief Minister of Penang. Malaysiakini summarises the essence of this allegation (see below).

Now, corruption just do not mean receiving money - but can also be the giving of gifts - or in this case selling a house cheap, way below the market value. 

Here, the seller may not have personally benefited from the 'gratification' - which would also include a 'discount' given on the real value of a house...see section 3 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, which gives an interpretation of this word...

"gratification" means-
(a) money, donation, gift, loan, fee, reward, valuable security, property or interest in property being property of any description whether movable or immovable, financial benefit, or any other similar advantage;...

(d) any valuable consideration of any kind, any discount, commission, rebate, bonus, deduction or percentage;
Now, the allegation is connected to a sale of government land again at undervalue - well, there is no direct benefit to the seller of the house, but the fact that the seller has a 'business link', even though remote, with the purchaser of the said land raises questions. As we know, sometimes these 'gratification' can very easily be given indirectly to hide 'corruption'.

MACC is allegedly investigating the matter - Lim Guan Eng has come out and explained matters - but alas, this may not be sufficient since he is the alleged wrongdoer..

We can wait for MACC to complete the investigations - or maybe, we can have an Independent Inquiry done by an independent body - maybe something like a 'Royal Commission of Inquiry'...

Maybe at the State Assembly level, there could also be a Select Committee appointed, just like the PAC for the 1MDB,...

Now, our values, principles and position must be constant - the same whether for the BN or for one of the Opposition parties like DAP (or Pakatan ....), same for foe and friend...

What is happening is good? Now, we also have the Opposition in Penang also highlighting possible wrongdoing of the Penang government - this is what is expected of the Opposition and back-benchers at all levels...of government.

In some countries, we have the Ombudsman - who has the power to enter and have access to all documents at any time, with the power to investigate and even, in some cases, the power to prosecute. The Ombudsman is tasked to root out act against government abuse, malfeasance, corruption, wrongdoings.. The Ombudsman must be independent...

An ombudsman or public advocate is usually appointed by the government or by parliament, but with a significant degree of independence, who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights.- Wikipedia

Like the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister of the State also have a lot of power...and influence on matters of the State... and public servants sometimes can be made to do 'wrong things' protect or hide wrongdoings...

So, how will Penang resolve this matter is of utmost importance for corruption is corruption, and wrongdoing is wrongdoing,  whether it involves billions of  ringgit or a few cents.

How Penang deals with this issue will give us an indication whether the Opposition will be an 'alternative' or just be like the BN when and if it comes to power at the Federal level...

Unlike Najib, Lim Guan Eng may have been quick to give a personal explanation and was seen to be more 'accountable and transparent' - but maybe this is still not enough. In my opinion, we still need an 'independent' body that investigates and tells us that there was no wrongdoing here...

Malaysian Bar’s statement on Lim Guan Eng — Steven Thiru PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 March 2016 11:43pm
Image©Malay Mail (Used by permission)

MARCH 22 — The Malaysian Bar notes the recent press reports on the allegations of corruption against YAB Lim Guan Eng, the Chief Minister of Penang. It is also noted that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is reported to be investigating these allegations.

The Malaysian Bar is uncertain whether the said investigations by MACC have commenced.

However, if the investigations have begun, the Malaysian Bar expects MACC to conduct the same fairly, impartially and thoroughly, and as expeditiously as possible.

When allegations of corruption are made against public officials, it may be necessary for a leave of absence pending completion of investigations.

There is no strict legal requirement to do so but is sometimes seen as a prudent step to preserve the integrity of the investigations. It all depends on the severity of the allegations.

Another critical factor is whether the public official under investigation can influence or be perceived as being in a position to interfere with the investigation.

Here, the MACC does not report to the Chief Minister Penang and there is no likelihood of influence or interference. It must also always be borne in mind that the person investigated enjoys the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law.

Investigations or stepping aside on a leave of absence pending completion of investigations should not be equated with guilt of the allegations of criminal wrongdoing.

* Steven Thiru is president of the Malaysian Bar.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online. - Malaysian Bar Website

Lim Guan Eng and his controversial bungalow purchase

KINIGUIDE Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his bungalow have been hitting the news for the last week.

How did it start, what do we know and what don't we know?

Malaysiakini sifts through the noise and puts together a brief guide on the Jalan Pinhorn bungalow row.

The allegation

Tasek Gelugor MP Shahbudin Yahaya of Umno last Thursday dropped a bombshell in Parliament, insinuating that Lim was involved in corruption.

Shahbudin accused Lim of purchasing a bungalow from Phang Li Koon at below the market price. Which isn't all that serious, nor a crime.But what made the allegation serious was that Shahbudin linked it to the state's government sale of land in Taman Manggis to a private company in 2012, which BN also claimed was sold at below the market price.

If a chief minister indeed gets a bungalow at a cheap price, in exchange for selling state land at a cheap price, then there likely is a case for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate.

But, are there any merits to allegation in Lim's case? Malaysiakini will explore this shortly.

Let's look at the Taman Manggis land first, because the bungalow in isolation is not an issue.

What is the Taman Manggis land?

The 0.4-hectare plot was sold for RM11 million to Kuala Lumpur International Dental Centre Sdn Bhd (KLIDC) in 2012.

Prior to the sale, Lim had offered Gerakan to purchase the land for RM22 million, after the BN member party claimed that the land was worth double the price.

However, Gerakan failed to come up with the money to complete the transaction.

The Penang Island Dental College is expected to take up residence on nthe site, which will include a 200-chair dental hospital, resource centre, hostel and recreational facilities.

Why is BN linking bungalow to Taman Manggis land sale?

The original bungalow owner, Phang, does not have any interest in KLIDC, which purchased Taman Manggis land, so why is BN trying to link them together?
While there is no direct link, Umno blogs have suggested an indirect link to Phang's business partner as the majority stakeholder in KLIDC.

According to documents from the Companies Commission, Phang is the co-director of Windbond Management Consultant Sdn Bhd, holding a 20 percent stake.

Her partner in the company is Tang Yong Chew, who controls the remaining 80 percent of the company.

Tang also the majority shareholder of KLIDC, which bought the Taman Manggis land, holding a 60 percent stake in the dental company.

Is this a smoking gun? Not quite. Lim pointed out that the Taman Manggis land was sold based on open tender.

Furthermore, Lim was not part of the tender committee, which was chaired by the state secretary, which awarded the bid.

So, while there is an indirect link between Phang and KLIDC, there is no evidence to show that Lim had used his position to sell state land cheaply, or was even involved in the deal.

The bungalow - sold at below market price?

Back to the much talked about bungalow at 25, Jalan Pinhorn in Green Lane.

Lim bought the 10,161.13sq-ft property on July 28 last year for RM2.8 million, at or RM275.56 per square feet.

The previous owner, Phang bought it at RM2.5 million, or RM246psf, on Sept 27, 2008.

She had renovated the property and later rented it to Lim for six years at RM5,000 a month.
Umno blogs have compared Lim's purchase to a another newly-renovated property on Jalan Pinhorn, which has a plot size of 4,983.690sq-ft and was sold for RM3.6 million or RM 722.36psf in 2014, to claim Lim's purchase was way below market.

If the 2014 transaction is to be a benchmark, Lim's property should be worth more than RM7 million.

However, that is likely an exaggerated figure as the bungalows on Jalan Pinhorn vary starkly, from the rundown to the posh ones, thus the price can also vary widely.

However, Penang Umno Youth chief Rafizal Abdul Rahim submitted a document to the MACC on Monday, in which he claimed showed Lim's unit to have been valued at RM4.27 million.

Rafizal claimed the document was a copy of the property transfer assessment declaration from the Inland Revenue Board.

If the document is authentic, then the property Lim bought was indeed a good deal.

However, the transaction alone, without any quid-pro-quo, does not constitute an offence.

Phang, in a statutory declaration yesterday, stressed that she had no interest in the government and no part in the management of KLIDC.

She also praised Lim as Penang chief minister and said she had no regrets selling the property to Lim.

Here is what we know, in brief.
(Editor's note: Click on the cards to flip them)

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