KUALA LUMPUR • A scholarship to study at Oxford University with the RM400,000 (S$128,900) tuition and living expenses paid for, and a RM5 million "grant" for his personal use. The youth wing chief of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's party claimed these were offered to him in return for quitting politics by someone working for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Mr Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, 24, said that after he refused the offer and complained to the media instead, he was "blackmailed" by the same person, with two "sensitive pictures" involving his family members sent to him as a warning.
Datuk Seri Najib's press secretary denied there was any such person working in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Mr Syed Saddiq said in reply that the man works for Mr Najib and is not an officer at the PMO. He said the aide's name starts with the letter "H".
The claims and counterclaims are closely watched as it could elevate or deflate the reputation of Mr Syed Saddiq, a three-time winner of the Asian British Parliamentary Debating Championship's Asia Best Speaker who is a founding member of Dr Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).
Mr Syed Saddiq, a debate trainer at the International Islamic University Malaysia, startled many people when he indicated last week that he might quit politics to study at Oxford.
But at the news conference in a hotel located next to Umno headquarters on Monday, he claimed that the meeting, where the alleged bribe was offered to him, was set up by someone from Mr Najib's camp. He said he is not quitting PPBM.
"I was asked to criticise Dr Mahathir, for example, during the meeting (with them). They asked me to say that Dr Mahathir is only interested in putting his son, Mukhriz, in power," Mr Syed Saddiq said.
The young politician has since made a police report and also reported the matter to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
The polemics surrounding the sensational claims have continued to reverberate, with Umno officials saying Mr Syed Saddiq is a junior politician not worth bribing.
"Do you think he is worth RM5 million?" Umno information chief Annuar Musa was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight news site on Wednesday.
The opposition has jumped to his defence, claiming bribery is a known tactic by the government to get politicians to switch sides.
Others have claimed the so-called letter of offer of a master's degree course at Oxford was fake. But Oxford said it did offer Mr Syed Saddiq a postgraduate scholarship, The Star newspaper reported, but the total cost is lower than RM400,000.
It remains to be seen if the so-called aide of Mr Najib would respond. Questions also remain over the "sensitive pictures" that seemed to have shaken Mr Syed Saddiq.