Muhyiddin Yassin, who was Malaysia’s prime minister as the country locked down over COVID-19, has been arrested and will be brought to court to face corruption charges.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said in a statement on Thursday that Muhyiddin was detained after he was questioned over an economic recovery project launched by his government.
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Muhyiddin, 75, said he was not guilty of corruption and that the allegations against him were politically motivated.
He had voluntarily attended questioning at the MACC on Thursday morning regarding allegations that building contractors deposited money into the accounts of his Bersatu party in exchange for contracts during the pandemic.
MACC chief Azam Baki told state news agency Bernama earlier in the day the former prime minister would appear in court on Friday.
Muhyiddin was photographed praying and surrounded by supporters before heading into the MACC office. A number of other Bersatu politicians have been questioned over the allegations and two have been charged.
“The anti-corruption agency also froze his [Muhyiddin] party’s account in January,” said Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi, reporting from Kuala Lumpur.
Muhyiddin will be the country’s second leader to be indicted after leaving office. Ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak was hit with multiple corruption charges after he lost power in a 2018 general election. He began a 12-year jail term in August 2022 after losing his final appeal in the first of several trials.
Muhyiddin became prime minister in March 2020 after an internal power struggle, when the reformist coalition that he had once been part of won historic elections in 2018.
He lost the job in 2021 to more political manoeuvring, and his coalition then lost a hard-fought election to another veteran politician, Anwar Ibrahim, in November.
Anwar has promised to crack down on corruption, ordering a review of government relief programmes during the pandemic.
Najib, who was once Muhyiddin’s boss and Anwar’s colleague, became the first Malaysian prime minister to be sent to jail when he was found guilty of corruption in a case related to the multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB. He faces several other trials over 1MDB.