KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 6): The prosecution in the trial of former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has failed to produce specific evidence to support the charges against him and has not established a prima facie case, the High Court heard on Thursday (Oct 6).
Hence, the Muar Member of Parliament ought to be acquitted and discharged without having to enter his defence in the misappropriation of funds and criminal breach of trust (CBT) of the more than RM1 million he is accused of.
Defence counsel Gobind Singh Deo argued this before Judicial Commissioner (JC) Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid during submissions at the end of the prosecution's case on Thursday.
Zeroing in on the second charge of misappropriation amounting to RM120,000, Gobind highlighted that the prosecution did not call any organisers of the event or the donors who made contributions which would explain precisely why the monies were given to Syed Saddiq.
He argued that only the organisers would be aware of the terms of purpose of those events.
"[These witnesses would have revealed] what you can and cannot do with those monies. We [would be] guided with [their] evidence. [Was the monies] collected for Armada Bumi Bersatu Enterprise (ABBE)? Armada? Or for Syed Saddiq's personal [use]? We don't know.
"[There is] no evidence produced by the organisers to testify who the money belonged to," he argued.
For the second charge, Syed Saddiq is charged with misusing RM120,000 of party contributions belonging to ABBE in April 2018. ABBE is a company set up to generate income for Bersatu's youth wing, Armada, through merchandise sales.
The sum was transferred to Syed Saddiq's personal Maybank account.
The defence has contended that these were funds raised during two fundraiser events — in Muar, Johor and Ampang, Kuala Lumpur — belonged to Syed Saddiq, as it was raised for his election campaign in 2018.
The prosecution, however, maintains that the fund was not for Syed Saddiq's personal use, rather it was for the use of the party, hence the misappropriation.
Furthermore, Gobind argued that the prosecution was relying on its 13th witness — Armada's former assistant treasurer Rafiq Hakim Razali — to determine who was the rightful owner of the fund. This, the senior lawyer said, was hearsay evidence.
He said that Rafiq had testified that he had heard about the use of the funds from Syed Saddiq's former private secretary Mohamed Amshar Aziz, However, Mohamed Amshar was never called as a witness in the trial.
"Is the court going to say we are going to rely on hearsay evidence?" he asked, adding that Mohamed Amshar's testimony would have been material evidence in this case.
For the second charge framed under Section 403 of the Penal Code, Syed Saddiq could be jailed up to five years, whipped and fined if convicted.
As for the RM1 million linked to the CBT charge Syed Saddiq faces, Gobind argued that the prosecution had failed to show how Syed Saddiq gained political mileage from the funds spent.
The court had heard before that the funds were used for party purposes, mainly as Covid assistance, and for programmes related to Ramadan and Hari Raya. Some witnesses have also testified that Syed Saddiq gained some political mileage from these programmes.
"You must prove that those [programmes] could result in political mileage," Gobind argued.
He added that none of the recipients of the funds were also called to testify.
"None of them were called to say we received [monies] from Syed Saddiq. In fact if you look at the payments, they were made by Rafiq," he said.
In their written submissions, the defence also pointed out that Syed Saddiq did not receive a single cent from the funds and it was all spent for party programmes.
Gobind also argued that Syed Saddiq was acting in line with the party constitution to defend the welfare of the people.
Syed Saddiq is charged with abetting Rafiq in committing CBT involving RM1 million of party funds in March 2020.
If found guilty of the CBT charge, which is framed under Section 406 of the Penal Code, Syed Saddiq could be jailed for up to 10 years, whipped and fined.
Responding to Gobind's submissions for the second charge, deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Mohd Afif Ali questioned why the RM120,000 was not transferred directly to Syed Saddiq's personal account but went through ABBE, which was a party-linked outfit.
He said the court had to be mindful of the purpose ABBE was established in the first place. He added that there was no need to call the organisers of the event as the circumstantial evidence before the court was enough.
DPP Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said that the prosecution had established a prima facie case.
Responding to Gobind's submissions for the first charge, Wan Shaharuddin argued that per case laws, a mere intention to commit the offence in an abetment charge was enough and that the prosecution had proved Syed Saddiq's ill intention.
He cited the forensic report of WhatsApp conversations produced in court as an example and argued that the accused's behaviour needed to be looked at holistically and not limited to one juncture in time.
Syed Saddiq also faces two charges of engaging in money laundering activities involving two transactions of RM50,000 each — money believed to be proceeds of unlawful activities — via his Maybank Islamic account and his Amanah Saham Bumiputera account, on June 16 and 19, 2018.
The latter two charges were framed under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001, which are punishable under Section 4(1) of the same Act with a maximum jail term of 15 years, and a fine of not less than five times the amount involved.
Azhar then set Oct 28 to deliver his decision.