KUALA LUMPUR (March 13): Muar Member of Parliament Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman used his own money for programmes related to the 14th general election (GE14), according to his former private secretary.
Testifying in the former youth and sport minister's ongoing criminal trial on Monday (March 13), Siti Nurul Hidayah said this was done without the help of his former party Bersatu or its youth wing, Armada.
Corroborating the Muda chief's testimony last month, the defence's fourth witness said Syed Saddiq had begun work in the Muar constituency about two months leading up to the GE14, during which about 10 programmes were held to promote the politician as the candidate in the area.
"Throughout the 10 programmes organised, YB Syed Saddiq used his own money to make all the programmes organised by Team Saddiq a success without financial assistance from Armada or Bersatu," she told the court.
"Team Saddiq" was the name given to a handful of friends who helped the politician with his GE14 election campaign in Muar.
Siti Nurul Hidayah, who turns 27 this year, said that as Syed Saddiq had used his own funds for the campaign, Team Saddiq had planned to hold fundraisers to help him with his personal campaign in Muar.
Two fundraisers were held in April 2018: one at the SKT Banquet Hall in Muar and the other at De Palma Hotel in Ampang.
Siti Nurul Hidayah along with another member from Team Saddiq were to oversee the fundraiser in Muar, which raised about RM30,000, which was only enough to cover the cost of the event.
The prosecution has maintained that the RM120,000 at the heart of Syed Saddiq's misappropriation of party funds charge came from these two fundraisers.
This is one of the four charges the 30-year-old faces in this trial where the sum allegedly belonging to Armada Bumi Bersatu Enterprise (ABBE) was transferred to Syed Saddiq's personal Maybank account.
ABBE is a company set up to generate income for Armada through merchandise sales.
The charge, framed under Section 403 of the Penal Code, provides for a jail term of up to five years, whipping and a fine, upon conviction.
The defence, however, has contended that these funds belonged to Syed Saddiq to replace his own funds used during the GE14 campaign.
Siti Nurul Hidayah also testified on Monday (March 13) that the group decided not to use Syed Saddiq's personal account for the funds.
Elaborating on this later during re-examination by defence counsel Haijan Omar, the witness said they were concerned the bank would block the personal account if there was a deluge of transactions. Therefore, they decided on a business account.
She also testified that Syed Saddiq had given her cash to make payments associated with the fundraiser.
"I also informed contributors who contacted me that payments made to the ABBE account were for Syed Saddiq's personal campaign during GE14. There were some contributors who relayed to me that they were not supporting Bersatu but Syed Saddiq himself," she said.
She added that the money from the fundraisers belonged to Syed Saddiq, not Bersatu, Armada or ABBE.
However, during cross-examination by deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Mohd Afif Ali, the defence witness agreed with the prosecution that there was no documentation on when and how much cash she received from Syed Saddiq.
She also agreed that there was no documentation of the WhatsApp conversations with the contributors saying that they supported Syed Saddiq and not Bersatu. She added that the conversations were in an old number which she has since stopped using.
When asked by DPP Mohd Afif whether it was relayed to the contributors that the money raised were to refund Syed Saddiq, she said she was unsure.
In her testimony, Siti Nurul Hidayah also mentioned that she was in court to testify because she oversaw some of the programmes linked to the charges, and it is her responsibility to tell the court what transpired.
The prosecution had earlier suggested that she had a close working relationship with Syed Saddiq and therefore was present in court to give a testimony in favour of her former boss.
In a brief moment of levity during proceedings on Monday, she said that she was in court to convey what transpired with the programmes she oversaw and that she actually "wasn't really concerned" if Syed Saddiq was sent to jail.
Siti Nurul Hidayah also testified that she was "threatened and roughed up" by officers of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission during investigations and had lodged a police report on it.
Syed Saddiq also faces one charge of abetting former Armada assistant treasurer Rafiq Hakim Razali in committing criminal breach of trust over RM1 million linked to Armada. The charge is framed under Section 406 of the Penal Code which provides for a jail term of up to 10 years, whipping and a fine, if found guilty.
He also faces two charges of engaging in money laundering activities involving two transactions of RM50,000 each — 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.
The trial before High Court judge Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid continues on Tuesday.