Former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin was today charged with abuse of power and money laundering over projects launched under his leadership, 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.
Muhyuddin, who led the country for 17 months between 2020 and 2021, becomes the second prime minister to be charged with crimes after losing power.
At the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court, the prosecution alleged that Muhyiddin abused his position as prime minister to receive bribes of RM232.5 million in a bank account belonging to Bersatu.
The Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman and opposition leader was charged with four counts of abuse of power and two counts of money laundering.
Muhyiddin pleaded not guilty to all six charges and previously said the charges were "political persecution" of the opposition.
He faces up to 20 years in jail if found guilty. He will also be subject to a heavy financial penalty.
Muhyiddin was granted bail of RM2 million by the judge and ordered to surrender his passport. The case will be heard next on May 26.
Muhyiddin and Bersatu have faced graft investigations since losing the general election in November, with the party's bank accounts frozen by the anti-graft body and two leaders charged with bribery.
Muhyiddin has also been banned from leaving the country.
Prime Minister Anwar has dismissed accusations that the charges against Muhyiddin are politically motivated, saying he has not interfered in investigations.
The allegations against Muhyiddin come ahead of crucial elections to be held in six states by mid-year, with PN expected to pose a strong challenge to Anwar's Pakatan Harapan.
PN is a conservative ethnic-Malay, Muslim alliance that has portrayed itself to be clean of corruption, and won support from the country's majority Malays in last year's general election.
Anwar's progressive, multi-ethnic PH has faced some criticism for joining hands with the corruption-plagued Umno to form a government.
Both leaders failed to win a simple majority in last year's election, but Muhyiddin's PN made huge gains in Malay heartlands.
Umno's former leader and ex-prime minister, Najib Razak, is serving a jail term for graft related to the multi-billion dollar corruption scandal at state fund 1MDB. Anwar's deputy and current Umno leader, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, also faces graft charges.
The upcoming state polls are seen as a proxy vote on the Anwar government's performance so far.