Former Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin acquitted on abuse of power charges

Iman Muttaqin Yusof
Kuala Lumpur
Former Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin acquitted on abuse of power charges Former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks to the media at the compound of the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex in Jalan Duta, Aug.15, 2023.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

Updated at 8:51 a.m. EDT on 2023-08-15

A Malaysian court on Tuesday acquitted opposition leader and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin of multiple counts of abuse of power that prosecutors had linked to a COVID-19 relief program his government administered during the pandemic.

Muhyiddin, who led the country from March 2020 to August 2021, was charged five months ago with four counts of abuse of power to solicit bribes worth 232.5 million ringgit (U.S. $50.5 million).

The Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled Tuesday the charges against him were defective and not sufficiently clear to allow Muhyiddin to prepare a defense.

“In order to prevent the abuse of the court process and a miscarriage of justice, I allow the applicant’s request [for the four charges] to be dropped,” said Judge Muhammad Jamil Hussin in his ruling. “The applicant is released and acquitted.”

Speaking outside the courthouse after proceedings, Muhyiddin said the dismissal proved the charges brought against him were politically motivated and an attempt to discredit him.

“They are meant to oppress me, these false charges that do not disclose any offense…I have not committed any wrongdoing,” he said.

His lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said it was clear that due process had been violated by the prosecution due to excessive haste.

“The decision was fair and just because the charges brought against Muhyiddin were seriously defective and vague,” he said.

The office of the Attorney General filed an appeal against the ruling in its entirety on Tuesday afternoon.

Muhyiddin, who is the head of the Bersatu party and chairman of the opposition bloc Perikatan Nasional, still faces three charges of money laundering 195 million ringgit (U.S. $42.3 million) related to the same COVID relief program. 

The money laundering case is expected to be heard by the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court on Sept. 19, but Deputy Public Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said the prosecution would seek its postponement until the appeal was resolved.

Money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 15 years’ jail and a fine five times the value of the proceeds at the time the offense was committed, or 5 million ringgit (U.S. $1.08 million), whichever is greater.

The so-called Jana Wibawa case concerned an initiative launched by Muhyiddin’s administration to expedite the implementation of projects to help members of Malaysia’s ethnic Malay majority and stimulate the nation’s economy in the aftermath of the pandemic. The program aimed to strengthen the capabilities of Bumiputera/Malay contractors in the construction sector, making them more competitive and adaptable.

But, last year, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim ordered a review of the billion-ringgit worth of government projects approved by Muhyiddin, including COVID-19 aid programs. He alleged that Muhyiddin had disregarded the proper procedure which then led to a probe and charges against the former PM.

Muhyiddin was the second former Malaysian prime minister to be charged in a five-year period for corruption-related offenses. In August last year, former leader Najib Razak was sent to prison for 12 years over the 1MDB financial scandal, which brought down his government four years earlier.

This story has been updated to correct the maximum penalty for money laundering and to crop the photograph of Muhyiddin Yassin.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.