Former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has claimed trial for the misappropriation of RM1.12 million funds from his former party Bersatu.
The Muar MP pleaded not guilty to two charges read out before Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi this morning.
According to the first charge, he is accused of misappropriating RM1 million belonging to Bersatu, via a CIMB Bank cheque, at CIMB Bank, KL Sentral, Kuala Lumpur, on March 6 last year.
The second charge accused him of dishonestly misappropriating RM120,000 of funds for the 14th general elections, collected for Bersatu Youth, at Maybank Islamic Berhad at Taman Pandan Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, between April 8 and 21, 2018.
Azura granted him RM330,000 bail with one surety for both charges. She also ordered him to surrender his passport to the court, and to report to the nearest MACC office in Kuala Lumpur once a month, until disposal of the case.
However, she allowed Syed Saddiq, who is represented by counsel Gobind Singh Deo, to post the first RM80,000 of the bail today, and for the balance to be posted by next Tuesday.
DPP Faridz Gohim Abdullah prosecuted the case.
On July 17 last year, the MACC grilled Syed Saddiq for 11 hours over a report he made a few months earlier in March over the sum of around RM250,000 that he claimed was stolen from his home.
He alleged that most of the missing money was to fund renovations for his house in Petaling Jaya. Of the missing sum, it was alleged that RM90,000 belonged to him whereas RM50,000 belonged to his mother and RM70,000 to his father.
The incident occurred amid turbulence within Bersatu where Syed Saddiq - the party’s former Youth chief - sided with Langkawi MP and former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who led a breakaway faction from the party.
Both were later expelled from Bersatu.
The first charge was framed under Section 405 of the Penal Code, and that per Section 406 of the Penal Code is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years, whipping, and/or a fine.
The second charge is framed under Section 403 of the Penal Code and carries jail time of up to five years, whipping, and/or a fine.
During proceedings, Faridz applied for the bail to be set at RM500,000 for the first charge and RM300,000 for the second.
He urged the court to impose additional bail conditions including for the accused to report to the nearest MACC office once a month, his passport be surrendered to the court, and for a gag order to prevent the accused from speaking about the case pending its disposal.
Faridz submitted that not only are the offences serious but involved a public figure who occupied a high position, with the accused being an MP.
The DPP contended that a high bail and the bail conditions can deter Syed Saddiq from absconding.
“Even though at this stage it has not been shown that prosecution witnesses could be disturbed, it is submitted that as an influential politician, he could influence the prosecution witnesses.
“So a high bail and the conditions are important to remind the accused not to do so,” Faridz submitted.
The DPP also informed the court that a gag order is necessary to prevent Syed Saddiq from issuing public statements that could be prejudicial to the court proceedings.
However, Gobind objected to the bail amount that he termed excessive, pointing out that the first charge sheet exhibited a signature for prosecution only on Jan 4 this year.
The lawyer questioned why Syed Saddiq was only charged today when the charge sheet signature for prosecution was signed more than six months ago.
“If this case was so serious, why only charge now? Why levy the charge within three days of Parliamentary sitting?” Gobind said.
He was referring to the Parliament sitting set to resume on July 26, months into the ongoing movement control order in force to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Gobind submitted that Syed Saddiq had given his full cooperation to the MACC since April last year, hence there is no reason for the accused to abscond or disturb prosecution witnesses.
The lawyer pointed out that the prosecution’s claim that Syed Saddiq was at risk of influencing witnesses was a wild allegation as no police reports have been lodged over the matter.
“As a parliamentarian, he (Syed Saddiq) earned RM16,000 in salary and allowance. He has no other source of income. This money is used for his constituency, so is the RM500,000 bail even reasonable?” the lawyer asked the court.
“He has no reason to abscond. He is an active parliamentarian in his constituency. He is active in Parliament.
“As the representative of the people, he will attend Parliament and to his constituency as well,” he added.
Gobind also urged the court not to impose a gag order because Syed Saddiq has a fundamental right under the Federal Constitution to voice out his facts, especially when met by the media.
The lawyer pointed out that in the event that somehow the accused gives public statements that are sub judice to proceedings, then the prosecution can apply for the relevant order from the court to deal with the issue.
After the bail was granted, Azura set case mention on Sept 10.
The court set the date after Faridz informed that the prosecution would later be levying further charges against Syed Saddiq at a court in Johor Bahru, and that the prosecution seeks to have the charges there be tried together with other charges at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court.
Later around 3pm this afternoon, Syed Saddiq left the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex, after having posted bail.