KUALA LUMPUR (March 10): Former prime minister and Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was charged with four counts of abuse of power for using his position as the then PM when his party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, was alleged to have obtained gratification (received) RM232.5 million in bribes from corporate entities.
He also faces two more charges of money laundering, wherein his party received RM195 million out of the total sum from illegal activities.
The former PM, clad in a dark blue suit on Friday (March 10), pleaded not guilty from the dock before Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi when the four abuse of power charges were read out to him.
According to the first four charges, Muhyiddin, 75, is said to have used his position as the then PM and the president of Bersatu to receive RM232.5 million in bribes between March 1, 2020 and Aug 20, 2021.
According to the charges, the money was deposited into Bersatu’s bank accounts in bribes from three companies and an individual.
The companies are Bukhary Equity Sdn Bhd, Nepturis Sdn Bhd, and Mamfor Sdn Bhd, while the individual is one Datuk Azman Yusoff.
For the remaining two charges, he was charged with receiving proceeds from illegal activities amounting to RM195 million out of the RM232.5 million from Bukhary Equity.
Muhyiddin is the second former PM to have criminal charges preferred against him, the first being Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is currently in jail over the SRC International Sdn Bhd case.
Muhyiddin, who was sacked by his former party Umno for speaking up against Najib and his misgivings in 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), was one of the founders of Bersatu, which joined the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition in 2018 to topple the Barisan Nasional stronghold in the country.
In 2020, Muhyiddin was an integral part of the “Sheraton Move”, which saw the PH government collapse and the new coalition called PN take over as the government, which led to Muhyiddin becoming the nation’s eighth PM and gained him the popular moniker “Abah”.
The charges were read out to him before Azura on Friday. Muhyiddin pleaded not guilty and claimed trial to all charges.
According to the Companies Commission of Malaysia's records dated Feb 15, 2023, Bukhary Equity is a company 99% owned by tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary, while the remaining 1% is held by Syarifah Zarah Syed Kechik.
Nepturis is equally owned by Aliza Abdul Malek and Mohd Rizman Akum Khan.
Mamfor is 60%-owned by Shaharani Kassim, 39% by Shahradzi Shamsuddin, and 1% held by Faezah Kassim.
The first four charges were framed under Section 23 (1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 for abuse of power.
For the remaining two charges, the former PM was charged under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLA).
For the four MACC charges, Muhyiddin is facing not more than 20 years in prison for each charge and a summons of up to five times the amount of the bribe.
For the AMLA charges, he faces a term of not more than 15 years' jail time and a fine of up to five times the amount of the illegal proceeds or RM5 million, whichever is higher.
Muhyiddin was represented by lawyer Datuk K Kumaraendran.
After the charges were read, lead prosecutor Datuk Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh, who is also the nation’s solicitor general, applied that a bail amount of RM2 million be set with two sureties, and for the former PM to surrender his passport.
Kumaraendran then informed the judge that his client was agreeable to the bail amount and the proposed terms.
Azura then set the bail at RM2 million and set May 26 for case mention.
The prosecution was also conducted by deputy public prosecutors Datuk Faridz Gohim Abdullah, Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, Ahmad Akram Gharib, Noralis Mat, Nor Asma Ahmad, Rasyidah Murni Azmi, Muhammad Asraf Mohamed Tahir, Kalai Vani Annadorai and Maziah Mohaide.
Muhyiddin, meanwhile, was also represented by Rosli Dahlan, PAS secretary general Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, Chetan Jethwani, Dev Kumaraendran, Mohamad Isa Mohamad Basir, Teh See Khoon and Varsha Chelvi.
Outside the courthouse, some 200 to 300 supporters of Muhyiddin turned up in support of him under heavy police presence. The main entrance of the courthouse was closed, and only media personnel and lawyers were allowed to enter.
About an hour and a half after the charges were read, Muhyiddin paid his bail amount in full.
On the first and second charges, Muhyiddin was charged, as the country’s then PM and the president of Bersatu, to have abused his office or position to obtain gratification of RM200 million from Bukhary Equity and RM1 million from Nepturis for Bersatu.
As for the third and fourth charges, he was alleged to have used his position as the then PM and the president of Bersatu to obtain gratification of RM19.5 million from Mamfor, and RM12 million from Azman Yusoff for Bersatu.
The Pagoh Member of Parliament was alleged to have committed all the offences at the Prime Minister's Office, Main Block of the Perdana Putra Building, Federal Government Administrative Centre in Putrajaya between March 1, 2020 and Aug 20, 2021.
He was also charged, in his capacity as the president of Bersatu, with two counts of received money from unlawful activities amounting to RM195 million from Bukhary Equity, which was deposited into the party’s CIMB Bank account.
The offence was allegedly committed at CIMB Bank Menara KL Branch, Jalan Stesen Sentral, here between Feb 25, 2021 and July 16, 2021, and Feb 8 and July 8, 2022.
Additional charge coming next Monday, Muhyiddin confirms
After paying the RM2 million in bail, Muhyiddin exited the court complex, and told the media that he is set to face another charge in the Shah Alam court next Monday.
Muhyiddin claimed that the seven charges stemmed from two allegations made against him, namely that he allegedly abused his power as the then PM to appoint Bumiputera contractors for the Jana Wibawa programme, as well as approved tax exemption for Yayasan Albukhary.
He denied both of these allegations and the charges that have been levied upon him. Muhyiddin also clarified that he was not accused of accepting bribes but instead of abuse of power.
“This is because after an investigation, it was found that not a single sen of the rakyat’s money went into my own pocket during my tenure as the PM.
“This is different from the slander thrown against me that I allegedly embezzled RM600 billion of economic stimulus package money during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.
'Organised political persecution'
Muhyiddin accused the government of deciding to prosecute him before investigations by the MACC and relevant agencies into the Jana Wibawa programme are completed.
“Yesterday (Thursday), before my testimony was taken [by the MACC] regarding the alleged abuse of power to approve tax exemption appeals by Yayasan Albukhary, I was told that the AGC (Attorney General's Chambers) had decided to prosecute me,” he said.
The Bersatu president claims that the government is using enforcement agencies as tools to achieve its political goals.
“Clearly, the prosecution against me is a form of organised political persecution.
“I have been involved in politics for 50 years. During that period, I have done nothing wrong,” he said, asserting that he "has always obeyed the rules and laws".
However, Muhyiddin answered in the affirmative when asked whether the companies which allegedly gave Bersatu money were related to Jana Wibawa.
“[This case] is about me. It is not about the contractors, but Jana Wibawa, as you know, is one programme which was approved by the Cabinet to help Bumiputera companies and contractors which were badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.