KUALA LUMPUR (July 6): The star witness in former Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman's criminal trial, Rafiq Hakim Razali, said on Wednesday (July 6) that he "cleared" and distributed part of the RM1 million central to the ongoing trial based on his own understanding of a conversation with the accused.
The youth wing Angkatan Bersatu Anak Muda’s (Armada) former assistant treasurer also agreed with defence counsel Gobind Singh Deo that he doesn't recall the specific words of the conversation that took place in early 2020, but was insistent that, to him, the connotation was to dispose of the money.
Gobind: What is the meaning of "clear" to you?
Rafiq: Don't keep the money in my house.
Gobind: "Clear" means dispose [of] right? Throw into the river or get rid of it... This money belonged to Armada, [it was withdrawn] to assist with Armada programmes. Why would you want to dispose of it? It doesn't make sense, [does] it?
Gobind: I put it to you he did not use those words, he doesn't use those words, that is your understanding of it.
Rafiq then also agreed with Gobind's suggestion that the instructions were to keep the money safely as it would later be used for party purposes, mainly Covid assistance, Ramadan- and Hari Raya-related programmes.
On Tuesday, Rafiq, 32, testified that he received a call from the Muar member of Parliament in early 2020 to "clear" and distribute part of the RM1 million taken from the party's bank account as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) wanted to conduct checks on Syed Saddiq's home regarding a separate case.
The prosecution's 13th witness also added that this was because Syed Saddiq was afraid that the money would be seized by the anti-graft body.
The MACC investigation was on RM250,000 that is missing from the former youth and sports minister's home in early 2020. Gobind on Wednesday pointed out that Syed Saddiq should not have anything to fear or hide since Syed Saddiq himself contacted the authorities regarding the missing money.
Gobind also suggested to Rafiq that he would not be able to provide the right context to the conversation as he does not recall the specific words. To this, Rafiq disagreed.
Gobind: If you can't remember exactly the conversation, you are not able to tell the court now the context in which the statement was made.
Rafiq: I disagree.
Rafiq also testified that he did not keep notes of the conversation nor did he take notes after the fact. Furthermore, he did not lodge any police report on the conversation.
During cross-examination on Wednesday, Gobind also highlighted that as per Article 24 of Bersatu's Constitution, only party expenditures — not withdrawals — need the party supreme council's approval. Rafiq agreed with this.
Article 24, among others, states that any expenditure above RM500,000 at any one time cannot be done without prior permission from the party’s supreme council and that the party treasurer can only keep up to RM50,000 in petty cash at any given time.
The defence counsel also suggested that Rafiq was not aware of the said article and it was only pointed out to him while he was detained by MACC.
Gobind: But you were told by MACC that [it contravenes] the Constitution of [Bersatu]. You were even shown [Article 24].
Gobind: But now you know that MACC got it wrong because [Article 24] does not say withdrawals, it says expenditure for a one-off payment, which wasn't the case here?
Gobind then suggested that Rafiq was now changing his evidence and focusing on the need for working papers instead. Rafiq also agreed with this.
Earlier on Wednesday during examination-in-chief by Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, Rafiq testified that there were no proposals (kertas kerja) presented for the withdrawal and distribution of the funds.
He said a proposal on the project would have to be presented to Armada's leadership which was done in this case, adding that "the withdrawal of the money did not follow procedure from the get-go".
Syed Saddiq has been charged with abetting Rafiq in committing criminal breach of trust involving RM1 million of funds belonging to Bersatu Youth. The offence allegedly took place in March 2020, when Syed Saddiq was chief of the youth wing.
If found guilty of the charge, which is framed under Section 406 of the Penal Code, Syed Saddiq could be jailed for up to 10 years, whipped and fined.
Syed Saddiq has also been charged under Section 403 with misusing RM120,000 in party contributions raised through a Maybank Islamic Bhd account belonging to Armada Bumi Bersatu Enterprise between April 8 and 21, 2018. If convicted for this, he could be jailed up to five years, whipped and fined.
In addition, he faces two charges of engaging in money laundering activities involving two transactions of RM50,000 each — money that is 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.
The trial before Judicial Commissioner Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid continues this afternoon.