Making him the country’s second leader to be indicted for corruption after leaving office, Former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was charged with accepting bribes and money laundering on Friday.
Muhyiddin, who was prime minister for 17 months between 2020 and 2021, pleaded not guilty and claimed the charges were politically motivated.
Muhyiddin has been accused of accepting bribes from companies in exchange for granting them contracts through Malaysia’s pandemic recovery fund.
Prosecutors allege these bribes totaled 232.5 million ringgit ($51.4 million, €48.5 million) for Muhyiddin’s center-right, Malay-dominated political party Bersatu.
Muhyiddin was also charged with money laundering relating to 195 million ringgit that was deposited into party coffers.
He faces up to 20 years in jail and substantial fines if found guilty.
Tackling corruption in Malaysia
Muhyiddin rose up party ranks under former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is himself serving a 12-year jail term for corruption over the plunder of state investment firm 1MDB.
He fell out with Najib in 2015, when he was sacked after criticizing the government over the 1MDB scandal.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who formed a multi-ethnic, center-left coalition in late 2022, has pledged to tackle corruption in the Southeast Asian nation.