Malaysian ex-minister Syed Saddiq gets 7 years in jail, whipping for embezzlement

Former Malaysian minister and the leader of the youth-facing Muda movement Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman was sentenced to seven years in jail and two lashes of the whip after a Kuala Lumpur court on Thursday found him guilty of embezzling more than US$200,000 of funds for a political party.

The 31-year-old rising star of Malaysian politics was accused of abetting a subordinate to withdraw 1 million ringgit (US$213,538) from the account of the Bersatu party, while he served as youth chief from 2016 to 2020.

Syed Saddiq was also found guilty of misappropriating a further 120,000 ringgit (US$25,650) from another party-affiliated account to fund his election campaign.

Delivering his ruling, High Court judge Azhar Abdul Hamid said the accused, who faced a total of four charges, had failed to raise reasonable doubt over the allegations and therefore “the court finds the accused guilty of all charges.”

The court, which also imposed a 10 million ringgit (US$2.1 million) fine on Syed Saddiq, granted him a stay of sentencing while he mounts an appeal.

He is at the risk of losing his seat as the threshold of penalty for a parliamentarian is 2,000 ringgit (US$427) or more than six months in jail.

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Flanked by his parents, family members, and Muda party representatives dressed in black, the party’s colour, Syed Saddiq held back tears as the verdict was read out.

“We regret the evidence presented failed to raise a doubt,” defence counsel Gobind Singh Deo said after the verdict.

The former minister for youth and sports joins a roll-call of Malaysian politicians to be convicted of corruption crimes in the country’s notoriously murky politics, where political futures often run aground on legal proceedings.

Syed Saddiq denied all charges and throughout the trial has maintained the allegations against him were politically motivated as a form of pressure to back the administration of then prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin in 2020.

He is also on trial for engaging in money laundering involving a separate 100,000 ringgit (US$21,380), believed to be proceeds of unlawful activities from his personal bank account into his unit trust account.

Muda leader Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman at a protest rally in Malaysia in 2022. Photo: Twitter/@PatiMuda

Syed Saddiq is a two-term member of parliament, having defended his seat of Muar in November 2022.

Sacked from Bersatu in May 2020, alongside then party chairman Mahathir Mohamad and others following a political crisis, he founded Muda, a youth-centric party which aims to be the base of young Malaysian voters following the lowering of the voting age to 18-years-old.

But Muda has failed to make substantial electoral gains so far in a politics dominated by old faces and big traditional parties.

In August, Muda contested six-state elections as an independent party, placing candidates against the governing coalition of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in what was seen as an attempt to split the progressive vote. But it was wiped out in all seats, while the conservative Perikatan Nasional (PN) made major inroads.

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