KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — Former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he was puzzled that authorities have decided to charge him over a tax exemption for tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary’s Yayasan Albukhary charity when he had only been questioned about it today.
Speaking to supporters after he was released on bail tonight, Muhyiddin insisted he was not corrupt and any donation from Syed Mokhtar, whom he described as an old friend, went directly to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s bank account and never into his.
Speaking at a PAS centre in Taman Melewar, Gombak, after leaving the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) head office in Putrajaya, Muhyiddin said he was only questioned on two matters today.
“I went to the MACC office to face a few accusations. But oddly, when I came, there were two matters, one is Jana Wibawa that is already wrapped up. They had not interrogated me about the issue of tax exemption. Just now they told me, ‘you have been arrested and will be charged tomorrow.
“But only just now they interrogated me about the issue of tax exemption, this means that matter has yet to be completed. It was decided I would be charged, I was arrested. I said it is odd, not yet resolved, how can the attorney-general make such a decision? I am not disputing but asking,” he said.
He questioned why the MACC had said so when it had just finished interrogating him today, claiming that the officer he spoke to was speechless as the latter supposedly knew the actions were taken in haste.
Muhyiddin claimed that there could be orders from “above”, and suggested that this was political persecution.
“Not persecution towards me, but persecution to our party; not Parti Bersatu, but Perikatan Nasional that I lead, because they are fearful of our strength, so I say this is an inhumane action taken against me,” he claimed.
Explaining the tax exemption, Muhyiddin said Syed Mokhtar is a successful Malay entrepreneur and a generous donor who has helped build mosques and given back to the community in other ways.
Muhyiddin said he had given Syed Mokhtar, an acquaintance of nearly 40 years, the idea of setting up Yayasan Albukhary to help Muslims and carry out other charitable work, albeit having a company manage the charity.
Calling Yayasan Albukhary one of the biggest charitable bodies in Malaysia, Muhyiddin said it had successfully applied for tax exemption from the government via the Finance Ministry during the previous Barisan Nasional administration, but this was later cancelled by the Pakatan Harapan government.
During Perikatan Nasional’s administration previously under Muhyiddin, he said Syed Mokhtar had sought to restore Yayasan Albukhary’s tax exemption status.
“When I became PM, he came to seek for the appeal to be considered for Yayasan Albukhary to get tax exemption, that appeal was presented to me. Why through the PM? Since many years ago, many of Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar’s matters are big affairs, he submitted applications to previous prime ministers, so when it came to me, he submitted it to me, too,” Muhyiddin said in his speech at the PAS venue.
When presented with the letter, Muhyiddin said he had noted down for the finance minister to state that the appeal could be considered if everything was in order, meaning it could be approved or rejected as appropriate.
Muhyiddin sought to cast doubt on the allegations of abuse of power and corruption against him, such as when Syed Mokhtar donated to his political party to help it out in elections.
Earlier, after he was released by the MACC, Muhyiddin said his written note was not an instruction or express approval.
He said it was the Finance Ministry and Inland Revenue Board that had considered the appeal before approving the restoration of tax exemption for Yayasan Albukhary, and not him.
“Because of my minutes, I am now accused of abusing my power. If there are donations from Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar, it is political donation which entered straight into Bersatu’s account, not my account. I did not receive one sen, not even one sen from that donation which was not given to me for my own use.
“I know Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar has given financial contributions to other political parties for decades, not just to Bersatu; this includes previous ruling parties and also current ones, I believe. If Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar also wants to give donations to Bersatu as a party that fights for good policies for Malays and the country, where is the wrong?
“So, I never ordered or influenced the Finance Ministry to approve that appeal. Leave it to MOF, if approved, then approved, if not approved, then not approved. So, the actual power is not with the PM, the actual power is with the finance minister to approve,” he said, adding that he had given such explanations to MACC but indicated that he will still be charged.
Muhyiddin said he would be first charged at the Kuala Lumpur court complex tomorrow, and the Shah Alam court complex on Monday. He alleged the seven charges to be levelled against him were intended to humiliate him, but insisted he was innocent.
As for the Jana Wibawa project that he said was started during the Covid-19 pandemic to prevent Bumiputera contractors from going bankrupt, Muhyiddin said he was saddened that it was allegedly being portrayed as a scheme to steal the nation’s funds and that such allegations were used to freeze Bersatu’s funds.
He insisted that there was no corruption, saying it would be unfortunate if funds in Bersatu’s accounts which are political funds are considered as bribes.
“I stressed that I did not do any wrongdoing under the law, I am not the one with the power to approve any government projects, the power to approve is within the Finance Ministry’s jurisdiction. I was only carrying out the Cabinet’s decision which required the Prime Minister’s Department to forward project applications to be considered by the Finance Ministry according to the conditions and rules that are in effect.
“I never gave orders or influenced decisions made by the Finance Ministry. I also never met with any contractors which received projects and never received funds from them.
“MACC never received any proof that I had received money. So how can I be accused of receiving bribes and also misuse of power?” he asked when speaking to the media after his release from MACC questioning.
He also acknowledged that crowdfunding efforts have been started as Bersatu does not have funds and is now “poor” after its accounts were frozen.
At the same PAS event, Perikatan Nasional and Bersatu secretary-general Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin described this event as a “test” from God, and also spoke about the crowdfund which was started as he said the bail amount to be offered for Muhyiddin tomorrow could be quite hefty.
“The other side knows that actually their position as government is not as strong as they think it is. God willing, with our fight and our prayers tonight, we will return as government in this country,” he said.