Former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was charged on Friday with abuse of power and money laundering for projects launched under his tenure, charges he said were politically motivated.
The charges come just three months after Muhyiddin lost a hotly contested and contentious general election to Anwar Ibrahim, and are likely to heighten political tensions in Malaysia.
Muhyuddin, who ruled the country for 17 months between 2020 and 2021, becomes the second Malaysian leader to be charged with crimes after losing power.
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In a Kuala Lumpur court, the former prime minister was charged with four counts of abuse of power involving 232.5 million ringgits ($51.40 million) and two counts of money laundering involving 195 million ringgit ($43.1 million).
Muhyiddin pleaded not guilty to all six counts and previously said they were “political persecution” of the opposition.
The former prime minister faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of money laundering and up to 20 years for abuse of power.
He will also face a heavy financial penalty.
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Muhyiddin was released on bail by the judge and asked to return his passport.
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Prime Minister Anwar said he did not interfere in corruption investigations involving Muhyiddin and left that to law enforcement.
Immediately after the November election victory, Anwar said he would launch a review of government projects worth billions of dollars approved by Muhyiddin, including COVID-19 relief programs, alleging they had no followed the appropriate procedures.
(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Ed Davies)
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