KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 (Reuters) - Former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was charged on Friday with abuse of power and money laundering over projects launched under his premiership, accusations that he said were politically motivated.
The charges come just three months after Muhyiddin lost a closely fought and divisive general election to Anwar Ibrahim, and are likely to increase political tensions in Malaysia.
Muhyuddin, who led the country for 17 months between 2020 and 2021, becomes the second Malaysian leader to be charged with crimes after losing power.
At a Kuala Lumpur sessions court, the former premier was charged with four counts of abuse of power involving 232.5 million ringgit ($51.40 million), and two counts of money laundering involving 195 million ringgit
Muhyiddin pleaded not guilty to all six charges and has previously said the charges were "political persecution" of the opposition.
The former premier faces up to 15 years in jail if found guilty on the money laundering charge, and up to 20 years for the abuse of power charge.
He will also be subject to a heavy financial penalty.
Muhyiddin was granted bail by the judge and asked to surrender his passport.
Prime Minister Anwar said he has not interfered in graft investigations involving Muhyiddin and left it to law enforcement agencies.
Immediately after the election win in November, Anwar said he would launch a review of government projects worth billions of dollars approved by Muhyiddin, including COVID-19 relief programmes, alleging they did not follow proper procedures.