FORMER Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was on Friday, charged with abuse of power and money laundering over projects launched under his premiership.
The charges came just three months after Muhyiddin lost a closely fought and divisive general election to Anwar Ibrahim, and was likely to increase political tension in Malaysia ahead of regional polls this year.
Muhyiddin, who led the country for 17 months between 2020 and 2021, became the second Malaysian leader to be charged with crimes after losing power said the accusations were politically motivated.
At a Kuala Lumpur sessions court, the prosecution alleged that Muhyiddin abused his position as prime minister to receive bribes of 232.5 million ringgit ($51.44 million) in a bank account belonging to his party, Bersatu.
The former premier and opposition leader was charged with four counts of abuse of power and two counts of money laundering.
Muhyiddin, 75, pleaded not guilty to all six charges and said the accusations were “organised political persecution”.
“Not a single cent of the people’s money went into my own pocket during my tenure as prime minister,” Muhyiddin told reporters after being granted bail.
The former premier faced up to 20 years in jail if found guilty and would also be subject to a heavy financial penalty.
Muhyiddin said he would face an additional charge of abuse of power on Monday.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission denied the accusations of political motivation and interference in its probe involving Muhyiddin.
Muhyiddin and his party had faced graft investigations since losing the national election in November, with the party’s bank accounts frozen by the anti-graft body and two leaders charged with bribery.
The former premier had also been banned from leaving the country.
Prime Minister Anwar, who had long vowed to undertake reforms to improve governance and fight corruption that had long plagued Malaysia, had also dismissed accusations that the charges against Muhyiddin were politically motivated.
Anwar said he had not interfered in investigations.
The case was adjourned until May 26. (NAN)