Muhyiddin Yassin, the former prime minister of Malaysia, was charged on Friday with abuse of position and money laundering in relation to initiatives started during his term in office.
Hardly three months had passed since Mr. Muhyiddin’s bitterly contested and divisive general election defeat at the hands of Anwar Ibrahim. The charges were certain to ratchet up political tension in Malaysia ahead of this year’s regional elections.
Being the second Malaysian leader to face criminal charges after leaving office, Mr. Muhyiddin Yassin, who presided over the nation for 17 months between 2020 and 2021, claimed the accusations were politically motivated.
The prosecution charged Muhyiddin with abusing his position as prime minister to take bribes totaling 232.5 million ringgit ($51.44 million) in a bank account connected to his party, Bersatu, at a Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court.
Four allegations of abuse of power and two counts of money laundering were brought against the former premier and leader of the opposition.
The claims against Mr. Muhyiddin, 75, were described as “organized political persecution” as he entered a not guilty plea to all six charges.
After being granted bail, Mr. Muhyiddin assured reporters that “not a single cent of the people’s money went into my own pocket during my tenure as prime minister”.
If found guilty, the former premier could spend up to 20 years in prison and incur heavy financial penalties.
Mr Muhyiddin said he would face an extra charge of abuse of power on Monday.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission refuted claims that Muhyiddin’s investigation was politically motivated and influenced.
After losing the national election in November, Mr. Muhyiddin Yassin and his party have been the subject of graft probes, with the anti-graft authority freezing the party’s bank accounts and two leaders being accused of bribery.
A travel ban had also been placed on the former premier.
The Prime Minister Anwar also denied claims that Mr. Muhyiddin Yassin‘s allegations were politically motivated, despite his longstanding commitment to enact reforms to strengthen Malaysia’s governance and combat corruption.
Mr. Anwar asserted that he had not meddled with the investigations.
Adjournment of the case was made for May 26.