Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has been charged with abuse of power and money laundering in connection with the awarding of government contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Muhyiddin, who led the country from March 2020 through the worst of the pandemic, pleaded not guilty to the six charges at a Kuala Lumpur court on Friday morning.
The charges were filed after Muhyiddin was questioned by investigators from Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency for a number of hours on Thursday over a government support programme that his government introduced to help building contractors during the coronavirus lockdown.
He faces four counts of abuse of power involving 232.5 million ringgit ($51.40 million), and two counts of money laundering involving 195 million ringgit.
Muhyiddin, whose ethnic Malay dominated Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition lost a close-fought election to Anwar Ibrahim’s multi-ethnic rival in November, has previously called the investigation politically motivated.
He is the second former leader to face corruption charges after Najib Razak who was prime minister until May 2018 when his once dominant Barisan Nasional coalition under the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) lost power for the first time amid popular revulsion over the multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB.
Najib began a 12-year prison sentence on 1MDB-related charges last August after Malaysia’s top court dismissed his final appeal. He is also facing other a number of other cases related to alleged wrongdoing at the fund.
Supporters of Muhyiddin Yassin holding placards reading ‘malicious intent’ and holding his photo. They are wearing red bandanas reading ‘abah’ (father)
Supporters of former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin hold banners to show their support outside the Kuala Lumpur court on Friday [Hasnoor Hussain/Reuters]
Muhyiddin, who was a long time member of UMNO before he quit over the 1MDB scandal, faces as many as 15 years in jail if found guilty of money laundering, up to 20 years for abuse of power as well as potentially hefty fines.