KUALA LUMPUR: A former political secretary to Kedah Menteri Besar Mohamad Hilmi Abdul Wahab was charged in the Sessions Court here today with soliciting and accepting bribes in connection with the Rare Earth Element (REE) mining project in the state.

Mohamad Hilmi, 50, pleaded not guilty to both charges which were read out before Judge Suzana Hussin.

On the first charge, Mohamad Hilmi was alleged to have solicited a cash bribe amounting to RM250,000 from REE Mining Group director Liana Mamat @ Khalid, 40, through Syed Muhammad Syed Aluvi, 34.

It was as an inducement for him (Mohamad Hilmi), who was then the political secretary to Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, to help the company get the approval for its application for REE Mining Licence and Exploration License in Kedah.

The offence was allegedly committed at a premises in Sunway Kiara Hills, Taman Sri Hartamas here, on July 4 this year.

He was also charged with receiving RM150,000 from Liana for the same purpose at a restaurant in Sri Hartamas Village here last July 11.

The charge, framed under Section 16(a)(A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, provides imprisonment for up to 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the amount or value of the bribe or RM10, 000, whichever is higher, on conviction.

Judge Suzana, in allowing Mohamad Hilmi bail of RM45,000 with one surety for both charges, also ordered him to surrender his passport to the court and report himself at the Kedah MACC office once a month pending disposal of his case.

She also advised him against intimidating witnesses in the case and set Jan 12 next year for mention.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin prosecuted, while lawyer Syed Naqiuddin Shahab represented Mohamad Hilmi. - Bernama