KUALA LUMPUR (ANN/ST) – Malaysia’s former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin has been detained by graft busters on Thursday and will be charged on Friday over alleged abuse of projects awarded under a government stimulus programme.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said in a statement that the former premier was detained at 1 pm on Thursday after he arrived at the agency for an interview over the case.
The anti-graft agency said Tan Sri Muhyiddin will face several charges related to corruption, abuse of power and money laundering on Friday.
He will be the second Malaysian ex-premier, after Najib Razak, to be charged with corruption. Najib is serving a 12-year sentence after being found guilty on one of the charges linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
Mr Muhyiddin, 75, arrived at the MACC agency’s headquarters in Putrajaya at around 11.15 am on Thursday for questioning.
Speaking to reporters outside the MACC headquarters, Bersatu’s information chief Razali Idris said: “We consider this inhumane as the party is having its elections tomorrow (Friday) and Parliament is also in session.” Mr Muhyiddin leads the opposition Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. Bersatu and Parti Islam Semalaysia are the main members of the opposition coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN).
MACC is investigating allegations that contractors chosen for the stimulus programme, known as Jana Wibawa, were required to deposit money amounting to RM300 million (S$90 million) in the accounts of Bersatu, in return for projects.
Calling them political slander, Mr Muhyiddin has denied the allegations.
The Jana Wibawa programme was launched to help Bumiputera contractors during the Covid-19 pandemic. It was conceived by former finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz, who is now International Trade and Industry Minister.
On Thursday, several PN MPs skipped the Parliament session to show solidarity with Mr Muhyiddin, who is also chairman of the PN coalition.
Bersatu’s supreme leadership council member Azmin Ali, who was at the MACC headquarters in support of the party leader, is confident that Mr Muhyiddin is innocent.
“As a supporter of the party that always insists on the principles of accountability, transparency, integrity and rejection of corruption and kleptocrats, I will continue to be with Muhyiddin,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Responding to critics who claim that the probe is politically motivated, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday said the ongoing probe against Mr Muhyiddin is being carried out independently by the graft busters.
“To say all cases are motivated by politics, does that mean we can’t arrest (anyone)? All the big corruption cases should be dropped?” he asked.
Mr Muhyiddin has also been barred from travelling outside of Malaysia, which the Bersatu president said was “wrongful”. He has challenged the travel ban in a judicial review application filed in the High Court.
He also filed a judicial review application on Wednesday to challenge MACC’s decision to freeze his party’s bank accounts.