KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6, 2010 (AFP) - A top figure in Malaysia's ruling coalition was charged with corruption Monday over a Balinese-style mansion he built while chief minister of the country's richest state.
Khir Toyo, a powerbroker in the ruling coalition, was the chief minister of Selangor state until being unseated in 2008 elections. He is one of the most senior government figures ever to face corruption charges in Malaysia.
He was charged at the Sessions Court outside Kuala Lumpur with offences that carry a penalty of two years' imprisonment, along with Shamsuddin Haryoni who allegedly sold him plots of land at a huge discount.
The pair pleaded not guilty, said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) which pursued the case after a public furore over the lavish residence which was built on the land.
"Mohamad Khir Toyo was charged for illegally receiving items, namely, two land plots and a bungalow worth 3.5 million ringgit (S$1.45 million) in 2007 through Shamsuddin Hayroni," MACC said in a statement.
The anti-graft body said the property, which was later substantially improved, had been bought for 6.5 million ringgit (S$2.7 million) in 2004 by Ditamas, a company in which Shamsuddin was a director.
The case came to prominence after a lawmaker claimed the sprawling 50,000 sq ft (4,645 sq metre) mansion was built at an estimated cost of 20 million ringgit (S$8.31 million).
Pictures of the house, complete with swimming pools, tropical gardens and cabanas, caused a sensation in the press and hit a nerve with Malaysians who are frustrated by endemic corruption.
The ruling coalition's failure to root out graft was a major factor in 2008 elections which saw the opposition make unprecedented gains.
The action against Khir comes as Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was appointed last year in the wake of the electoral drubbing, prepares to hold elections which are tipped to be announced within months.