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New Malaysian PM Anwar reviews predecessor's billion-dollar projects

FILE PHOTO: Malaysia's newly appointed Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim reacts as he deliver his speech during a gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia November 24, 2022.Vincent Thian/Pool via REUTERS

Malaysia's new Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said on Tuesday he was reviewing government projects worth billions of dollars approved by his predecessor Muhyiddin Yassin as they did not follow the rules.

The remarks come at a time when graft has become a major issue, with former prime minister Najib Razak jailed this year over the looting of billions of dollars from state fund 1MDB after a prosecution following his loss in a 2018 election.

The projects include flood mitigation and COVID-19 aid programmes, said Anwar, who became prime minister last month after a tightly contested election race with Muhyiddin.

"They can say it was clean, but they weren't clean," Anwar told a news conference. "When we look at the approvals, they were done without following the regulations."

In posts on Facebook this week, Muhyiddin, who was prime minister for 17 months between 2020 and 2021, denied the accusations over COVID-19 relief, saying he would welcome an investigation.

"Not a single penny of this money went into my personal account," Muhyiddin added. "I'm not afraid of being investigated because I know I'm not misusing public funds."

On Monday, Anwar said his government was re-evaluating a Muhyiddin-era plan for a state-owned 5G network as it had not been formulated transparently.

And on Tuesday, he ordered the review of 7 billion ringgit ($1.59 billion) worth of flood mitigation projects, state news agency Bernama said.

Anwar said the projects had been awarded through direct negotiations instead of tenders.

Responding to Anwar's comments on the flood-related projects, former environment minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said projects awarded through direct negotiations were not improper.

Although some projects were expedited, they still followed the rules, he said in a statement.

Malaysian politicians grappling with corruption accusations include Anwar's deputy, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who has pleaded not guilty to 47 charges of bribery, money laundering and criminal breach of trust.

Ahmad Zahid is a key coalition partner without whose support Anwar would not have been able to form a government.

($1=4.3910 ringgit)

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff and A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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