KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 28): Former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has been ordered to enter his defence for all four charges in a criminal trial involving more than RM1 million linked to Bersatu's youth wing Angkatan Bersatu Anak Muda (Armada).
In delivering his brief decision on Friday (Oct 28), judicial commissioner (JC) Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid said that the prosecution had established a prima facie case, and therefore the former Armada chief has to enter his defence.
"I have examined the entire evidence presented by the prosecution. After giving maximum consideration as required by the law, I am satisfied that the prosecution has proven a prima facie case for all four charges against the accused. The accused is ordered to enter his defence for all the charges," the JC said.
Azhar added that there are three ways for Syed Saddiq to defend himself. He can either give evidence under oath and be subjected to cross-examination,
give an unsworn statement from the dock where he will not be cross-examined, or choose to remain silent, where the court will have no choice but to mete out a sentence.
Syed Saddiq's counsel Gobind Singh Deo said that his client will give evidence under oath, and the defence is planning to call 15 witnesses, including Syed Saddiq himself.
The court set Feb 22 to 24, March 13 and 14, and April 10 to 14 next year as trial dates.
The incumbent Muar Member of Parliament faces four charges in total — one charge of abetting Armada's former assistant treasurer Rafiq Hakim Razali in committing criminal breach of trust (CBT), one charge of misappropriation of party funds, and two money-laundering charges.
Speaking to the press after the decision, Syed Saddiq said that this is an opportunity to tell his side of the story, and to clear his name in the court of law.
"It has come where I am given an opportunity to give a sworn testimony, and to call defence witnesses to tell my side of the story, so that justice can win," he said.
He added that he entered politics to "clean it up", and will continue fighting for the people.
The current Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) president's trial began on June 21, and the prosecution wrapped up its case on Sept 27. Thirty witnesses took the stand, including Syed Saddiq's father Syed Abdul Rahman Alsagoff and mother Sharifah Mahani Syed Abdul Aziz.
For the first charge, Syed Saddiq is charged with abetting Rafiq in committing CBT involving RM1 million of party funds in March 2020.
The prosecution, led by deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, argued that mere intention to commit the offence in the abetment charge Syed Saddiq faces is sufficient, and that the prosecution has proven his ill intention.
The court has heard witnesses testify that the 30-year-old said the monies were his hard-earned money. Wan Shaharuddin also highlighted testimonies where witnesses told the court that the funds were for party use, and not for the political mileage of any individual.
Citing the forensic report of WhatsApp conversations produced in the court, the DPP argued that the accused's behaviour and intentions need to be looked at holistically, and not limited to one juncture in time.
The defence, led by Gobind and Haijan Omar, have contended that the monies were used for party purposes, namely Covid-19 assistance, Ramadan and Hari Raya programmes. The use of these funds, they said, was a collective decision by the party's central leadership, and not by Syed Saddiq alone.
They also pointed out that Syed Saddiq did not receive a single sen from the funds, and the monies were all spent on party programmes.
Throughout the trial, the defence also argued that the withdrawal of the funds did not contravene the party's constitution.
For the first charge, framed under Section 406 of the Penal Code, Syed Saddiq faces a jail term of up to 10 years, whipping and a fine.
As for the second charge, Syed Saddiq is charged with misusing RM120,000 of party contributions belonging to Armada Bumi Bersatu Enterprise (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 — and belonged to Syed Saddiq, as it was raised for his election campaign in 2018.
The prosecution, however, maintained that the funds were not for Syed Saddiq's personal use, but rather for the use of the party, hence the misappropriation.
During submissions, DPP Mohd Afif Ali argued why the monies were not deposited directly into Syed Saddiq's personal account, but through a party-linked account.
For the second charge, framed under Section 403 of the Penal Code, Syed Saddiq faces a jail term up to five years, whipping and a fine.
He 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 in June 2018.
The 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.
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