KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 9): Muar Member of Parliament Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has been sentenced to a total of seven years in prison, two strokes of the rotan, and a fine of RM10 million, after the court found the politician guilty of misappropriation of more than RM1 million belonging to the youth wing of his former party, Bersatu.
High Court judge Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid meted out the sentence on Thursday, after listening to submissions from both the prosecution and the defence.
Syed Saddiq was found guilty of all four charges — 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 of RM120,000, and two money-laundering charges.
The breakdown of the sentences is as follows.
The abetment of CBT, framed under Section 406 of the Penal Code, provides punishment of a jail term of up to 10 years, whipping and a fine.
For this, the court imposed a three-year jail term, and one stroke of the rotan on the young politician, who is the president of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda).
Meanwhile, the misappropriation charge, framed under Section 403 of the Penal Code, carries punishment of imprisonment of up to five years, whipping and a fine.
On this count, Syed Saddiq was sentenced to a jail term of two years, and one stroke of the rotan.
As for the two money-laundering charges, the judge meted out two years' jail and a RM5 million fine for each count.
Azhar said that the imprisonment sentences for these two charges will run concurrently, which means that Syed Saddiq will serve two years in total for the money-laundering charges.
The politician also faces two years of imprisonment if he fails to pay the fines.
Syed Saddiq's lead defence counsel Gobind Singh Deo asked for a stay of execution of the fines and prison sentences, but the prosecution objected to this, saying there were no special circumstances to grant a stay.
The High Court then granted a stay, pending an appeal, and the existing bail of RM300,000 was maintained.
It is believed that Syed Saddiq is the first MP in Malaysia under 50 years old to be sentenced with whipping after being convicted of a white-collar crime.
Earlier, during mitigation, Syed Saddiq's other counsel Haijan Omar asked for the court's discretion to sentence his client either with imprisonment or a fine only, and argued for the court to impose as minimal a punishment as possible.
The former Bersatu youth wing chief's lawyer added that Syed Saddiq turns 31 this year, and is the youngest child in his family, who also helps take care of his retired parents.
Haijan said that Syed Saddiq was active in politics, and had declined a scholarship offer to study at the University of Oxford to contribute to the nation. The lawyer then went on to highlight his client's contributions to the country, which included automatic voter registration and the Undi18 initiative, which lowered the voting age to 18 years old, as well as his fight for an increase in intern allowances and laptop aides.
"[When elected to the Cabinet in 2018], he was the youngest minister in Asia," the lawyer said, adding that his client accepts the judgement.
However, in response, lead deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin argued that when meting out the punishment, the court needs to take into account the gravity and rampancy of the crime committed by politicians.
The senior DPP argued that nowadays, there are too many politicians who have breached trust, and the public would want an adequate punishment for those who have betrayed the people's trust. He added that the punishment handed to Syed Saddiq should be a deterrent to such crimes.
He said that the crime was not something done on the spur of the moment, but rather was premeditated.
"I hope when the accused is done serving his sentence, that he will be a better person and politician," the senior DPP said.
Bernama quoted Wan Shaharuddin as saying that Syed Saddiq is the first politician in the country to be whipped after being found guilty of four charges.
Syed Saddiq was charged in 2021, and the trial began in June last year.
The prosecution wrapped up its case on Sept 27. Twenty-nine witnesses took the stand, including Syed Saddiq's father Syed Abdul Rahman Alsagoff and mother Sharifah Mahani Syed Abdul Aziz.
Syed Saddiq was ordered to enter his defence in late October last year, after the High Court found that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against him.
The defence closed its case in March this year, after calling four witnesses, including the former minister himself.
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