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Mahathir accepts court's acquittal of Lim Guan Eng

Malaysia's anti-graft body says it's shocked by ruling, adding that AG behind prosecution's retraction of case

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Mr Lim was acquitted on charges over the alleged conversion of land status and a bungalow purchase.

Petaling Jaya

THE decision by the Penang High Court to acquit Malaysia's Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng of his corruption charges has apparently shocked not just the country's anti-graft body, but the Prime Minister as well.

Speaking at a press conference in Brunei on Monday, Mahathir Mohamad was asked to comment on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) statement that it was "very shocked" by the acquittal.

"They (MACC) have a right to be shocked. If they want to be shocked, they can be shocked. I am also shocked," The Star online news quoted the prime minister as saying.

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"If the court makes a decision which to me is wrong, I also never comment on it.

"This decision is made by the court so we have to accept it," Dr Mahathir said.

Aside from the MACC and Dr Mahathir, Mr Lim's lawyer Ramkarpal Singh also expressed shock, albeit over the MACC's reaction to the acquittal.

"I am shocked that the MACC is shocked over the decision. They (MACC) obviously have knowledge and been informed that the charges will be withdrawn, as the entire process involves the MACC.

"Is the MACC saying that the AG (Attorney General) did not consult them? This is a serious allegation," Mr Ramkarpal said in a statement.

Earlier Monday, the Penang High Court acquitted Mr Lim, the former Penang chief minister, and businesswoman Phang Li Koon on corruption charges over the alleged conversion of land status and the purchase of a bungalow below market value.

High Court judge Justice Hadhariah Syed Ismail acquitted both accused and decided the charges be dropped despite the prosecution only proposing a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.

The judge said both the accused will be released immediately and would not be called again for the case in future, as they are discharged amounting to acquittal.

Responding to the decision, the country's graft-busting body said: "The MACC is shocked by the decision by the Penang High Court to acquit the former chief minister of the charges of corruption … after the prosecution retracted the case.

"The MACC would like to stress that the decision was made by the Attorney General's office and not the MACC," it said in its statement on Monday.

Lawyer groups meanwhile have called for the resignation of Attorney-General Tommy Thomas for dropping corruption charges against Mr Lim.

Young Professionals chief executive Faidhur Rahman Abdul Hadi and International Women's Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education Law and Human Rights Bureau head Fatihah Jamhari said they have lost confidence in Mr Thomas for failing to uphold the rule of law.

"The trend of dropping charges against Pakatan Harapan politicians is a mockery of our rule of law, whereby it gives a wrong reflection to the society that those in power could manipulate the law to their benefit," said Ms Fatihah.

Although the decision to drop the charges is at the sole discretion of the AG, it must be used intelligently and critically, so as to not insult public intelligence, she added.

"At the very least, proffer an explanation why the charges were dropped. Especially considering it has become a glaring trend where cases against Pakatan Harapan politicians are being dropped.

"If this trend continues, it will only perpetuate the very core wrongs we are trying to fix as a society," said Ms Fatihah.

The groups have called on the Bar Council to hold an EGM to discuss the trend which they deemed "disturbing".

Mr Faidhur said laws, including the Constitution, need to be amended to prevent selective prosecution and acquittal of cronies.

An anti-graft watchdog also questioned Mr Lim's acquittal. Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) executive director Cynthia Gabriel expressed shock over the court's decision and said that this move underscored the need for public clarification and disciplinary sanctions to take place over the alleged corruption charges.

"C4, as an organisation championing anti-corruption and accountable governance, is concerned that our venerable institutions are subject to political interference and/or partisan motivations when it comes to corruption."