Malaysia’s ex-PM Muhyiddin faces corruption charges and vows to fight
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia — Former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was arrested on Thursday and will face trial to face corruption charges, the anti-corruption agency said.
Muhyiddin, who ruled Malaysia from March 2020 to August 2021, will be the country’s second leader to be charged after leaving office. Former Prime Minister Najib Razak was hit with multiple corruption charges after losing the 2018 general election and began a 12-year prison term in August after losing his final appeal in the first of several trials.
The anti-corruption agency said Muhyiddin, 75, will face charges on Friday related to allegations of abuse and money laundering related to government projects awarded under his rule. He said Muhyiddin was arrested shortly after arriving at the agency for the second time in three weeks to answer questions about an economic stimulus package for ethnic Malay entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Muhyiddin was released on bail later Thursday and denied any wrongdoing. He told reporters he faced seven corruption charges, calling it a “malicious political act” by the government of current Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to crush the Islam-dominated opposition coalition that Muhyiddin leads before the national elections. He said he never met the contractors who won the projects. and received nothing from them.
“The goal is to embarrass me by dragging me to court tomorrow,” Muhyiddin said. “I affirm that I am innocent and will answer all charges brought against me in court.”
In December, Anwar ordered a review of government projects approved by previous administrations that allegedly failed to follow the rules. He denied that the case against Muhyiddin was politically motivated, telling local media that the investigation was carried out independently by the anti-corruption agency.
“If you said all cases are politically motivated, then how are we going to arrest people for big corruption cases?” Anwar was quoted by the Malay Mail, an online news portal.
Two senior leaders of Muhyiddin’s Bersatu party were also recently charged with corruption. The anti-corruption agency froze Bersatu’s bank accounts as part of investigations into alleged illegal prosecution.
Earlier Thursday, a large crowd of supporters gathered outside the anti-corruption agency building, chanting “Fight! Fight!” and “Allahu Akbar (God is great)” amid speculation that Muhyiddin would be arrested and charged.
Apart from awarding government contracts, Muhyiddin said the charges against him include abuse of office for supporting a tax annulment appeal by a business tycoon. He said all of the tycoon’s contributions to Bersatu were political funds funneled directly into the party’s account, not his personal bank account, and should not be considered a bribe.
He said the charges were an attempt to thwart strong support from his opposition coalition, particularly from the country’s majority ethnic Malays. He warned that Anwar’s government “will be punished by the people” in national elections.
Anwar and Muhyiddin fought for the post of prime minister after a general election in November produced a hung parliament. The country’s king then appointed Anwar as prime minister after forming a unity government with several smaller parties. Anwar’s strength will be tested in elections in six states over the next few months.