KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 9): The High Court has found Muar Member of Parliament Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman guilty of all four charges in a criminal trial involving misappropriation of more than RM1 million belonging to the youth wing of his former party, Bersatu.
In delivering the verdict on Thursday, High Court judge Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid said that the former youth and sports minister had failed to raise reasonable doubt in the prosecution's case.
"The court has given maximum consideration to all the testimonies before the court as required per law. The defence put forth by the accused has failed to raise reasonable doubt in the prosecution's case for all four charges. [The court also finds that] the prosecution has managed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, the accused is found guilty on all four charges," he said.
Azhar said he arrived at his decision after listening to the testimonies of all 29 prosecution witnesses and the four defence witnesses, which included the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) president himself.
Azhar stated that he will not give the grounds for the decision on Thursday, but upon being queried by lead defense counsel Gobind Singh Deo, he mentioned it would be completed in one to two weeks.
The prosecution has argued that a mere intention to commit the offence in an abetment charge is sufficient, and that they had proved Syed Saddiq's ill intention.
Throughout the trial, the court heard from several prosecution witnesses that Syed Saddiq referred to the RM1 million as "his hard-earned money". The witnesses also testified that the monies could have been used for Syed Saddiq to gain political mileage with Bersatu's youth wing amid the political turmoil in February 2020, which saw a change in government.
Citing a forensic report of WhatsApp conversations, the prosecution argued that the accused's behaviour and intention needed to be looked at holistically, and not limited to one juncture in time.
For the misappropriation and money-laundering charges, the prosecution led by deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin argued that Syed Saddiq did not inform anyone that the proceeds were to reimburse him for the advance he spent on his election campaign.
The prosecution has maintained that the fund was not for the former Cabinet minister's personal use, but for the use of the party. They also questioned why the funds went through Armada Bumi Bersatu Enterprise (ABBE) — a company set up to generate income for the party's youth wing through merchandise sales — and not directly to Syed Saddiq's personal account.
The defence countered that the RM1 million in the first charge was used solely for party purposes, namely Covid-19 assistance, Ramadan and Hari Raya programmes.
They contended that at no time were the monies in Syed Saddiq's personal "custody or control", nor did he personally spend it. The defence also asserted that Syed Saddiq acted in accordance with his responsibilities under the constitution of his former party, Bersatu.
As for the misappropriation and money-laundering charges, the defence had consistently maintained that these monies did not belong to Armada or Bersatu, but were Syed Saddiq's own money.
The defence said the funds were from two fundraiser events to reimburse the MP for his own personal monies spent on his election campaign in 2018.
DPPs Mohd ‘Afif Ali, Muhammad Asraf Mohamed Tahir, Noor Syafina Mohd Radzuan and Mohd Shahrom Idris also appeared for the prosecution.
Meanwhile, Syed Saddiq was also represented by Haijan Omar, Tiara Katrina Fuad, Lim Wei Jiet and former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.
In this trial, the former youth and sports minister faced four charges in total — one charge of abetting Rafiq Hakim Razali, a former assistant treasurer of Bersatu's youth wing Angkatan Bersatu Anak Muda (Armada) in committing criminal breach of trust (CBT), one charge of misappropriation of party funds, and two money-laundering charges.
For the first charge, the politician was accused of abetting Rafiq to commit CBT of RM1 million in funds belonging to the party's youth wing in March 2020.
This charge was framed under Section 406 of the Penal Code, which provides a punishment of jail term of up to 10 years, whipping and a fine.
As for the second charge, Syed Saddiq was charged with misusing RM120,000 of party contributions belonging to ABBE in April 2018.
This charge was framed under Section 403 of the Penal Code, which carries a punishment of imprisonment of up to five years, whipping and a fine.
The Muda president also faced two charges of engaging in money-laundering activities involving two transactions of RM50,000 each in June 2018.
These charges were framed under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001, and were 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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