Tax exemption status: Guan Eng hauls Muhyiddin to court

Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng today filed a defamation suit against former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin over the latter’s claim that the former revoked the tax exemption status of Albukhary Foundation.

The former Penang chief minister’s legal team filed the writ of summons at the High Court (civil jurisdiction) in Kuala Lumpur this morning.

On March 15, Lim sent out a letter of demand, giving a seven-day ultimatum for Pagoh MP Muhyiddin to apologise over the allegation that the former had cancelled the tax exemption status of the foundation. The Bagan MP also dismissed the claim as untrue.

On March 22, the DAP chairperson also lodged a police report at the Dang Wangi district police station against the Perikatan Nasional chairperson over the allegation.

According to a copy of the civil action’s statement of claim, Lim claimed that Muhyiddin defamed him via statements published on three separate dates, namely on March 9 and March 11 via Facebook and on March 12 when interviewed by the press.

The plaintiff claimed that the timing of the first statement, which the defendant made on his FB after his arrest and release by MACC, was intentionally made with a view to achieving “cheap and glaring publicity” while trying to deflect public attention to the DAP chairperson with “unjustified and false claims”.

Lim alleged that the third statement was made to the press after the defendant gave a winding-up speech at a Bersatu event at Menara PGRM, Kuala Lumpur.

Lim claimed that the statements were made out of malice and had implied, among others, that he had abused his power at the time by directing the Inland Revenue Board to impose tax and penalties on the welfare foundation when such an organisation was not liable to taxation.

The DAP chairperson not only denied the allegations but also claimed that they were politically motivated with the malicious intention to tarnish his image by painting him as racist and anti-Islam.

Ready to adduce evidence

The plaintiff said he is ready to adduce evidence in court to rubbish the defendant’s allegation, including a media statement by the Finance Ministry on March 23 which stated that neither the then finance minister nor ministry officers had revoked Albukhary Foundation’s tax exemption status.

Lim contended that the allegation was shown to be untrue following Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s debunking during a Parliament sitting earlier on March 21.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant did not make any attempt to verify the claim with the former before making the statements.

Lim alleged that despite the letter of demand, Muhyiddin via a reply from his solicitors dated March 21 refused to accede to the plaintiff’s demand for an apology, among others.

Through the writ of summons, Lim seeks Muhyiddin’s apology and retraction of all three purportedly defamatory statements through the defendant’s FB and Twitter accounts as well as an apology carried in all newspapers in Malaysia and a few online news portals within seven days from the date of judgment.

The plaintiff is seeking general, aggravated and punitive damages; an injunction to restrain the defendant from issuing or publishing further defamatory statements; and an order for the defendant to take down the statements from his Facebook account within three days of the date of judgment.

Lim also seeks five percent interest on the awarded sum calculated from the date of filing the lawsuit to the date of full realisation, costs, and any other relief deemed fit by the court.