PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — Former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was grilled Thursday by anti-graft agency officials for a second time in a matter of weeks and reportedly will be charged over alleged corruption connected with awarding of government contracts while he was in office.
The agency chief, Azam Baki, told the national Bernama news agency that Muhyiddin, 75, will be charged in court Friday. He did not give details. The agency said it will issue a statement later in the day.
A large crowd of supporters gathered outside the agency building Thursday, chanting “Fight! Fight!” and “Allahu Akbar (God is great)” as they accused Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's government of political persecution. Muhyiddin, 75, got out of his car and prayed with his supporters before he went into the building. In a Facebook statement hours earlier, he denied rumors that he had been arrested Wednesday while playing golf. He said he was summoned to the anti-graft agency but didn’t say why.
If Muhyiddin is charged, he will be the second former leader to be indicted after leaving office. Ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak was hit with multiple graft charges after he lost the 2018 general elections and began a 12-year jail term in August after losing a final appeal in the first of several graft cases.
Anwar took office in November. He has denied the case against Muhyiddin is politically motivated, telling local media the investigation was independently carried out by the anti-graft agency.
“If you said all cases are politically motivated, then how are we going to arrest people for big corruption cases?" he was cited as saying by the Malay Mail, an online news portal.
Anwar, who is also finance minister, last year ordered a review of government projects approved by past administrations, including billions of dollars in COVID-19 economic aid programs. He has said some projects were awarded without proper procedures.
Muhyiddin was premier from March 2020-August 2021. He was first questioned by the anti-graft agency in February and has denied any wrongdoing. Two senior leaders from his Bersatu party recently were charged with corruption connected with the projects. The anti-graft agency has also frozen the party’s accounts to facilitate investigations into suspected illegal proceeds.
Muhyddin leads a strong Islamic-dominated opposition coalition and has accused Anwar’s government of trying to tarnish his party ahead of state elections. Bersatu's information chief, Razali Idris, told reporters earlier Thursday he feared Muhyiddin might be arrested and charged in court. He and other party leaders slammed such a potential move as a ploy to maim the opposition.
Anwar and Muhyiddin battled for the premiership after November general elections produced a hung parliament. The country's king later appointed Anwar as prime minister after he formed a unity government with several smaller parties. His strength will be put to test in elections in six states in the coming months.
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