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Ex-Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin arrested and charged with corruption


Former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has been arrested and will face trial to face corruption charges

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 following his defeat in the 2018 general election and began a 12-year prison sentence in August after losing his final appeal in the first of several trials.

The anti-corruption agency said Muhyiddin, 75, would face multiple charges on Friday related to allegations of abuse and money laundering related to government projects awarded under his 17-month 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.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who took power after general elections in November, had ordered a review of government plans 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.

Muhyiddin, who leads a strong Islam-dominated opposition, denied any wrongdoing and accused Anwar’s government of trying to crush the opposition ahead of national elections.

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.

Bersatu leaders accused Anwar’s government of political persecution to tarnish the opposition. Muhyiddin, 75, got out of his car and prayed with his supporters before entering the building.

Anwar and Muhyiddin fought for the post of prime minister after general elections 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.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.