A senior member of Malaysia's ruling party has been sentenced to a total of four years in jail for bribery, the first politician to face such a severe punishment in an anti-corruption drive launched by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Azman Mahalan, a former legislator in the Perak state assembly, was sentenced on Monday by a court in the northern town of Ipoh to two years in jail on each of the two charges of bribing a contractor while in office during 2001.
Azman, who was also fined 35,000 ringgit ($A12,400), paid up, but remained free pending his appeal against the two sentences, which are to run concurrently, meaning he would serve two years in jail if his appeal is rejected.
"The accused did not repent for his actions from day one till today. This will have an impact on public confidence. We don't want corruption to be our culture," prosecutor Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil told the court in his closing arguments.
Azman was found guilty of giving 2,000 ringgit ($A700) on April 6, 2001 and 5,000 ringgit ($A1,800) on April 9, 2001, to contractor Mohammed Kamal Rabaai as inducement to reject an offer of debt settlement by Pazli Abdullah Sani, a colleague in the ruling United Malays National Organisation party.
This made Pazli bankrupt and ineligible to contest against Azman in party elections.
Azman, 63, is the most senior casualty in the war against graft declared by the prime minister since taking office in 2003. Azman is also the only politician to be sentenced to jail so far while several other politicians and businessmen have been hauled to court for alleged corruption with their cases still pending.
In June, Federal Territories Minister Isa Samad, the No. 3 official in UMNO, was suspended from the party for six years for bribing delegates to vote for him in last September's party polls.
Abdullah also forced Osu Sukam, a former chief minister of timber-rich Sabah state, to quit his party post earlier this month, after it was revealed he had incurred overseas gambling debts of more than $US1.8 million ($A2.4 million).
Both Isa and Azman were known to be staunch supporters of Abdullah. Besides being a state assembly lawmaker until 2004, Azman was also a state executive councillor, a post equivalent to a deputy minister.