Defence witness denies being Syed Saddiq’s accomplice in withdrawing RM1m from Armada bank account

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 — Former Bersatu Youth information chief Ulya Aqamah Husamudin told the High Court today that he was not in cahoots with Syed Saddiq Sye Abdul Rahman who is on trial for misappropriating RM1 million from the political party’s funds.

Ulya, who is the third defence witness and a close friend of the Muar MP, insisted he had not lied or hid any evidence to help Syed Saddiq in his trial as put forward by the prosecution team led by Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin.

Instead, Ulya, who was also Bersatu supreme council member from 2016 to 2020, insisted that former Armada assistant treasurer-turned-star prosecution witness Rafiq Hakim Razali had acted on his own when he withdrew RM1 million from their party’s CIMB bank account at Menara CIMB KL Sentral, Jalan Stesen Sentral 2 here on March 6, 2020.

Wan Shaharuddin’s intense grilling of the defence witness thickened the atmosphere in the courtroom today.

Things grew more tense when the court was told that the defence, led by Gobind Singh Deo, did not have Ulya’s statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), nor a copy of the transcripts and audio recordings.

Wan Shaharuddin: You said you were not aware of the RM1 million withdrawal because it didn't involve you and to withdraw the money Rafiq needed all five of G5 members’ permission. But were you with them at all times? You guys can't be together all the time isn't it? There may be circumstances when the others are with Syed Saddiq without your presence and there could be discussions about the RM1 million then.

Ulya: Well I said here, I didn't know if Syed Saddiq had given instructions to withdraw the money.

Wan Shaharuddin: I put it to you that you didn't know anything about this withdrawal as it happened between the others when you were not there and you are also lying in court today. You have no idea about the orders to take the money as it didn't involve you.

Ulya: I disagree.

Wan Shaharuddin: The withdrawal was only between Rafiq, Redzuan and Syed Saddiq. Also, you agree these are your signatures on the MACC statement?

Ulya: Agreed.

Wan Shaharuddin: If so, I'd like to tender his statement.

Judicial Commissioner Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid who was presiding over the trial expressed surprise at the prosecution’s move to submit the statement as evidence at this point.

Gobind also demanded the DPP explain what law provision he was using to submit the statement as evidence.

Wan Shaharuddin told the court that he was doing so not because he planned to impeach Ulya, but so that he could recall the defence witness for cross-examine in future.

Gobind: OK, if that's the case Yang Arif, isn't it fair that we in the defence also are entitled to all the witness' statements so that when during cross [examination] we too can do the same? In other words only the prosecution can do this? Defence cannot?

Citing Section 51(a) of the Criminal Procedure Code, Gobind argued that the prosecution is obliged to provide the defence with any material it has, including if it’s the accused’s favour.

"This statement here clearly shows the version put forward by the defence which from the start of this case is consistent with their witness's statement which they've never given to us. That's why I'm asking them to tell us what [provisions of the law] they are submitting it for. Is it for cross examination alone?

"I ask the court for this observation to be recorded, that the prosecution from the start know they have no case against my client and this statement proves it," Gobind argued.

He accused the prosecution of suppressing evidence from the court. He claimed the prosecution had never called their witnesses who can testify that the RM1 million was never mentioned.

"But they won't give it to us. If this is the case, Section 51 has no meaning and the defence in this country will always be handicapped," Gobind asserted.

"Yang Arif, we cannot have witnesses giving evidence and statements as well. I'm just wondering is it the case that if all prosecution witnesses come there's nothing for us but when the defence gives evidence one by one, statements are emerging? I apologise but this is something new that I'm seeing," Gobind said.

The trial judge then asked the prosecution to explain its reason to submit the MACC statement as evidence, saying it was necessary to test the credibility and accuracy of the witness.

The court took a 15-minute break at this point.

After recess, Azhar ruled to allow Ulya’s MACC statement to be tendered to court as evidence, but said it was restricted to certain pages, which were page one, 24 and 26.

Defence questions

Ulya was then asked by defence counsel Tara Katrina Fuad if there ever were discussions between Syed Saddiq, Armada assistant secretary Ahmad Redzuan Mohamed Shafi and Rafiq regarding how much money to withdraw from Armada's bank accounts.

Ulya indicated the there weren’t, adding that if there ever were discussions it only took place over one day when they were deciding what to do during the “Sheraton Move” and the impending movement control order.

Tara referred Ulya to his MACC statement on paragraph 25 where he said he did not know if the RM1 million was taken out from the CIMB bank on orders by Syed Saddiq. She then asked him to look at his witness statement on paragraph 15(a).

In that paragraph, Ulya clearly states Syed Saddiq didn't ask Rafiq to withdraw the RM1 million. This is where the contradiction arose.

Tara: One statement says you did not know about the request to take the money out while the other statement says you were confident that no instructions were given. This is contradictory. However you told the prosecutors you don't agree with them that you've given two different answers. Can you tell us why?

Ulya: Yes I disagree with that analogy. The reason for this is, in the MACC statement the question asked to me is when I was at Syed Saddiq's house were there any discussions about the RM1 million? I said no he did not and I told this to Ihsan and it's reflected in the MACC statement. As for my witness statement today, the question posed to me was that maybe there were discussions outside of Syed Saddiq's house without my presence that I wasn't privy too to which I said I do not know if such things happened. That's why I insist there's no contradiction here as it was two different questions.

In this trial Ulya and former aide to Syed Saddiq when he was youth and sports minister Mohamed Amshar Aziz took the stand. They are the second and third defence witnesses following Syed Saddiq's testimony on day one.

Amshar confirmed to the court that Syed Saddiq had spent RM171,675 of his own money during campaigning for the 14th general elections when he stood for the Muar parliamentary seat.

Last Wednesday, the Muar MP said he had collected RM120,000 from fundraising events which he used to reimburse himself for the money spent campaigning. He said his team had prepared and submitted all their expenditures to the Election Commission.

He felt there was nothing wrong with using his own money first then reimbursing himself hence the first charge of taking RM120,000 supposedly belonging to Armada was invalid.

The 30-year-old claimed that the RM120,000 were proceeds collected from two fundraising events – Makan Amal Muo and Fund-raising Battle for Johor – he organised in 2018.

Nonetheless, his campaign proceeds were channelled into the Armada Bumi Bersatu Enterprise (ABBE) bank account, which Syed Saddiq explained had the approval of former Armada assistant treasurer, and fellow G5 member Rafiq.

In this trial Syed Saddiq has two charges pinned against him, charges of abetting in criminal breach of trust (CBT), misappropriation of assets and money laundering.

According to the first charge, Syed Saddiq, is charged as the then Bersatu Youth wing or Armada chief - who was entrusted with control of Armada funds - of abetting Rafiq, Armada’s assistant treasurer at the time, with CBT of RM1 million in funds belonging to the wing.

He is alleged to have committed the offence at CIMB Bank Berhad, Menara CIMB KL Sentral, Jalan Stesen Sentral 2, here on March 6, 2020, and is charged under Section 406 of the Penal Code, which provides for imprisonment for up to 10 years with whipping, and is liable to a fine, if found guilty.

For the second charge, the accused is charged with misusing property for himself, namely RM120,000 from the Maybank Islamic Berhad account belonging to ABBE, by causing Rafiq to dispose of the money.

Syed Saddiq is accused of having committed the offence at Malayan Banking Berhad, Jalan Pandan 3/6A, Taman Pandan Jaya here, between April 8 and 21, 2018, and charged under Section 403 of the Penal Code, which carries a minimum jail term of six months and a maximum of five years with whipping, and is punishable by a fine, if convicted.

He also faces two counts of engaging in money laundering activities, namely two transactions of RM50,000, believed to be proceeds of unlawful activities, from his Maybank Islamic Berhad account into his Amanah Saham Bumiputera account.

Syed Saddiq is accused of committing the offence at a bank in Jalan Persisiran Perling, Taman Perling, Johor Baru, on June 16 and 19, 2018.