M'sian Who Lied About NASA Scholarship Has Now Scammed His Way Into A Perdana Fellowship

Muhammad Azhar, also known as Azhar Ali, was stationed at the Ministry of Investment, Trade, and Industry (MITI) before being terminated this week for falsifying information about his achievements.

Cover image via @tzafrul_aziz (Instagram)

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A Malaysian boy, who in April 2020 lied about winning a NASA scholarship, scammed his way into this year's Perdana Fellowship, a prestigious programme under the Ministry of Youth and Sports (KBS)


John Krasinski reacting on behalf of every single Malaysian.

Image via tenor

Here's what happened:

On 23 August, Investment, Trade, and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz took to his verified Instagram profile, where he uploaded a post with multiple photographs of two Perdana Fellows.

In the post, which is still up at the time of writing, Tengku Zafrul wrote that 56 Perdana Fellows have been selected this year. He also stated that they will carry out their roles from 23 August until the end of this year.

"I extend my greetings to two Perdana Fellows, Gan Yu Jin and Muhammad Azhar, to the Ministry of Investment, Trade, and Industry (MITI). I hope this programme will provide you with a valuable experience," the minister stated in the post, which also included posters showcasing their individual achievements.

Screenshot of the post uploaded on Tengku Zafrul's Instagram profile.

Image via @tzafrul_aziz (Instagram)

You see, Azhar, one of the two Perdana Fellows honoured in Tengku Zafrul's post, is the same person who faked receiving a NASA scholarship

His NASA claim had received congratulatory messages from then-prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and former science, technology, and innovation minister Khairy Jamaluddin, among others.

Khairy had, in fact, welcomed him into his ministry and the Malaysian Space Agency.

Following the national coverage that Azhar's story received at the time, SAYS published a story raising a number of red flags about his claim, prompting the youth to claim he was "scammed".

Until Tengku Zafrul's post last month, Muhammad Azhar, also known as Azhar Ali, had largely remained out of the public eye.

Image via tenor

Alright, let us rewind and break it down for you

Just like his made-up claim of winning a NASA scholarship in 2020, a number of Azhar's "achievements" — such as Champion of the WorldQuant Brain 2022 Global Alphathon, Best Delegate at the Bank Negara Fiscal Policy Summit 2021, and Microsoft Imagine Cup 2021 Runner-Up — appear to be falsified.

The poster with Azhar's achievements, as uploaded on Tengku Zafrul's Instagram.

Image via @tzafrul_aziz (Instagram)

For example, the winning teams at the WorldQuant Brain 2022 Global Alphathon are actually from Vietnam, China, and South Korea, as per the official announcement by WorldQuant on 21 December last year. The announcement, which includes the names of the winning teams, does not mention either Azhar or Malaysia.

Similarly, Azhar's claim of being the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2021 runner-up did not pass verification checks. The winner is a group from Kenya, and the other finalists are from the US, Thailand, and New Zealand.

Malaysia was not even in the five teams from Asia that emerged in the top 12 finalists.

SAYS is checking the veracity of Azhar's "Best Delegate at the Bank Negara Fiscal Policy Summit in 2021" claim. We will update this story once we have received confirmation from the Central Bank of Malaysia.

Bank Negara has now confirmed with SAYS that there's "no such award".

His achievements had already come under scrutiny on social media, prompting KBS Minister Hannah Yeoh to release a statement on 13 September, announcing his termination from the programme

According to the statement, Azhar presented a false certificate for one of the achievements.

"KBS is aware of the recent viral story involving a Fellow who was placed at MITI. The public university student listed several achievements when applying for the Perdana Fellow Programme. However, one of the achievements, after checks with the organiser, was found to be not genuine.

"Therefore, due to this issue, he will be terminated from participating in the Perdana Fellow programme for violating the terms of the agreement for the programme," the statement said.

"However, he will be offered to undergo counselling sessions," KBS stated.

The ministry also stated that it will commence an investigation to ensure the programme's admission process will be strengthened in the near future.

Check out our coverage of Azhar's NASA claim here:

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