Malaysia's ex-minister Syed Saddiq charged with criminal breach of trust
KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s ex-minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, who was the youngest Cabinet member in the country’s history, was charged on Thursday (July 22) with misappropriating RM1 million (S$323,070) of funds from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).
Syed Saddiq, 28, was charged in a court in Kuala Lumpur with two counts of criminal breach of trust.
The offence was allegedly committed while he was serving as youth chief of Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s party – days after the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration – in which he had served as youth and sports minister.
According to charges read out at the Sessions Court by judge Azura Alwi on Thursday, Mr Syed Saddiq allegedly withdrew party funds in the form of a cheque without the approval of the party’s central committee in March last year.
Syed Saddiq pleaded not guilty and claimed trial for both charges. Another opposition MP, Democratic Action Party’s (DAP) Gobind Singh Deo, acted as his defence counsel.
If found guilty, he could face up to 10 years imprisonment, caning and also a fine.
Reports on Wednesday said that Syed Saddiq could also face a separate money – laundering charge in Johor, where he serves as MP for Muar ward.
Syed Saddiq currently heads his own party called Muda – Malaysia’s first youth-based political party that sits on the opposition bloc.
Syed Saddiq, who at age 25 became Malaysia’s youngest minister and third youngest elected lawmaker, has said that the charges were politically motivated and an attempt to obtain his support for Mr Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration ahead of Parliament reconvening next week.
The Parliament will sit for the first time in 2021 from next Monday, with doubts remaining over Mr Muhyiddin’s wafer-thin majority.
In late March last year, Syed Saddiq lodged a police report over a sum of RM250,000 that allegedly went missing from a safe at his house in Selangor, which prompted a probe from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Syed Saddiq had claimed that the missing sum belonged to him and his family, and that it did not belong to Bersatu.
Syed Saddiq is the second ex-minister from the PH administration to be charged with corruption since Mr Muhyiddin’s PN administration took power last year.
DAP leader Lim Guan Eng, who was the finance minister during the PH reign which lasted less than two years, is also facing corruption charges over the Penang undersea tunnel project that was greenlit during his tenure as Penang chief minister.
The Parliament will convene for five days from Monday following the wishes of Malaysia’s King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah last month.
It is expected to discuss measures taken by Mr Muhyiddin’s administration to deal with the Covid-19 crisis in Malaysia, much of which had been carried out without parliamentary approval following a state of emergency proclamation by the King in January.
The state of emergency is due to end on Aug 1, although Malaysia’s Covid-19 infection numbers had only become worse during the period. It is currently recording five-figure fresh infection numbers every day, and is averaging more than 100 deaths a day.
Syed Saddiq, despite being a party colleague of Mr Muhyiddin, did not join the new PN administration that was formed via defections last year, aligning instead with former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Both Tun Dr Mahathir and Syed Saddiq subsequently left Bersatu, but the latter chose not to join Dr Mahathir’s new Bumiputra-centric political outfit Pejuang, instead opting to form Muda, a multiracial youth party.
Syed Saddiq’s Muda is also currently engaged in a court battle with the Home Affairs Ministry over the lack of approval for Muda to be registered as a political party with the Registrar of Societies.
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