MALAYSIA: Member of Parliament for Muar, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined RM10 million (approximately US$2.13 million), in addition to receiving two strokes for the offences of abetment of breach of trust, misuse of assets, and money laundering (AMLA).
However, the High Court Judge allowed the former Youth and Sports Minister to suspend the implementation of all punishments, while the bail conditions remained in place pending the appeal in the Court of Appeal.
This conviction stemmed from the mishandling of funds belonging to Angkatan Bersatu Anak Muda (Armada), the Youth wing of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, where he previously served as its chief three years ago.
During the trial, High Court Judge Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid ruled that the defence failed to introduce sufficient doubt regarding the charges against Syed Saddiq, who currently holds the position of president of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) party.
The judge found the 30-year-old Syed Saddiq guilty of four charges, encompassing criminal breach of trust, fund misappropriation, and money laundering, as the defence was unable to undermine the prosecution’s case.
In announcing the sentence, Datuk Azhar considered various mitigating factors presented by both the defence and the prosecution, including public interest and that of the accused.
“In my judgment, the appropriate and proportionate sentence to the convictions is as follows:
“For the abetment, a jail term of three years and one stroke of the cane.
“For the criminal breach of trust, a jail term of two years and one stroke of the cane.
“For the money laundering offence, a jail term of two years each to run concurrently,” he said in delivering his judgment.
Furthermore, Azhar stipulated that if Syed Saddiq failed to pay the fine, an additional two years of imprisonment would be imposed.
The High Court subsequently granted Syed Saddiq a stay of execution of the sentencing, allowing time for an appeal to be made.
Syed Saddiq was represented by counsel Gobind Singh Deo, while deputy public prosecutor Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin spearheaded the prosecution.
The case background
As per Malaysian state media Bernama, the defence concluded its case on March 14, after calling Syed Saddiq and three other witnesses, namely Armada Information Chief Ulya Aqamah Husamudin, as well as Mohamed Amshar Aziz, and Siti Nurul Hidayah, who served as Syed Saddiq’s former special officer and former private secretary, respectively.
Throughout the trial, which commenced on June 21, 2022, a total of 30 prosecution witnesses provided testimony.
During the trial, Syed Saddiq faced allegations of abetting former Armada assistant treasurer Rafiq Hakim Razali, who had been entrusted with RM1 million in Armada’s funds, in committing criminal breach of trust through the misappropriation of the funds.
The offence was purportedly committed at CIMB Bank Bhd, Menara CIMB KL Sentral, Jalan Stesen Sentral 2, on March 6, 2020.
This charge was framed under Section 406 of the Penal Code, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, whipping, and a fine upon conviction.
Additionally, on the second charge, he was accused of misappropriating RM120,000 from Armada Bumi Bersatu Enterprise’s Maybank Islamic Bhd account by orchestrating the disposal of the money by Rafiq Hakim.
The alleged offence took place at Malayan Banking Bhd, Jalan Pandan 3/6A, Taman Pandan Jaya, between April 8 and 21, 2018.
This charge was framed under Section 403 of the Penal Code, which holds a punishment of up to five years’ imprisonment, whipping, and a fine upon conviction.
Furthermore, he faced two counts of money laundering, involving transactions of RM50,000 each, believed to be proceeds from unlawful activities, from his Maybank Islamic Bhd account into his Amanah Saham Bumiputera account at a bank on Jalan Persisiran Perling, Taman Perling, Johor Bahru, on June 16 and 19, 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, which carry a penalty of up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of not less than five times the sum or value of the proceeds of an unlawful activity upon conviction.
Initially charged in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court for the CBT and misappropriation of assets charges, Syed Saddiq’s other two money laundering charges were brought forth in the Johor Bahru Sessions Court.
Subsequently, the Johor Bahru Sessions Court granted the prosecution’s request to transfer the case for the joint trial of all four charges in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court.
Malaysian MPs could face disqualification for conviction
Under Article 48(1)(e) of the Malaysian Federal Constitution, a Member of Parliament (MP) can lose their qualification if they have been convicted of an offence by a court of law in the Federation and sentenced to imprisonment for a minimum of one year, or a fine of no less than RM2,000, and have not received a free pardon.
According to Article 48(4)(a), an MP will be disqualified from continuing as an MP 14 days after the date of conviction and sentencing under Article 48(1)(e). In simpler terms, this disqualification occurs 14 days from the day the MP is convicted and imprisoned.
However, as per Article 48(4)(b), if an appeal or any other court proceeding is initiated within this 14-day period, concerning the conviction or sentence, the disqualification of the MP will be postponed.
It will only take effect 14 days after the court reaches a decision on the appeal or court proceeding.
MUDA’s departure in September leaves Anwar’s Unity Government one seat shy of two-thirds majority
In September this year, Syed Saddiq announced his party’s departure from the ruling government led by Anwar Ibrahim, citing deep dissatisfaction with the abrupt suspension of Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s ongoing corruption trial.
Syed Saddiq emphasised that the government’s decision to drop all 47 corruption charges against Zahid had placed the Muda party in an untenable position within the ruling coalition.
Muda’s exit leaves the ruling coalition with 147 seats in Dewan Rakyat, one seat short of a two-thirds majority