Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia charged a former
minister on Thursday in connection with a multi-billion-dollar
government overspend on a free trade zone, in one of the
country`s biggest financial scandals.
The Port Klang Free Trade Zone, a 1,000-acre (405
hectares) commercial and industrial project south of the
capital, was initially projected to cost 1.82 billion ringgit
(USD 539 million dollars).
However costs are now expected to balloon to 12.5
billion ringgit, making the affair one of the biggest
financial scandals to hit the nation and a major embarrassment
for the government which invested heavily in the scheme.
Prosecutor Manoj Kurup said that Ling Liong Sik, a
former transport minister, had been charged with misleading
the government into buying a piece of land within the zone
which will cost an extra 720 million ringgit.
"The charge is for cheating in relation to the
purchase price of the land," Kurup told AFP.
"(The offence) has cost an additional 720 million
ringgit for the land price," the prosecutor said, adding that
Ling faces up to seven years in jail if convicted.
Ling, 67, the most high-profile personality to be
connected to the scandal, pleaded not guilty to the charge and
was granted a 1 million ringgit (313,000 dollars) bail. The
court fixed September 3 to decide on the hearing date.
Three others, including a former port chief, were
charged in December last year. Their trial is still ongoing.
Ling was in the cabinet for 17 years and is also
the former president of the Malaysian Chinese Association, the
second-largest component party in the ruling Barisan Nasional