AG has right to make final call in Riza Aziz case, say lawyers

Lawyers say Tommy Thomas (left) was no longer in office, and replaced by Idrus Harun, when the details of the settlement were ironed out.

PETALING JAYA: Tommy Thomas could not be blamed for agreeing to consider a representation from Riza Aziz to drop money laundering charges, pending the fulfilment of conditions as he was no longer in authority, two lawyers said.

They said the final decision, whether to accept or reject the Hollywood movie producers’ appeal, rested on Thomas’s successor and current Attorney-General Idrus Harun to exercise his power under the Federal Constitution and Criminal Procedure Code.

Lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said Riza’s solicitors had filed a representation last November and Thomas had delegated the matter to others though he may have agreed to settle the matter outside court.

“However, he was no longer in office when the details of the settlement were ironed out.

“Idrus was clothed with the legal authority to make the final call, based on advice given to him,” he said.

Syed Iskandar said this in response to Idrus’s statement today that Thomas was prepared to consider a representation from Riza last year to drop the charges, provided certain conditions were met.

Idrus, in a statement, said he had been advised that Thomas, after studying a Nov 18 letter of representation, also sought the views of senior deputy public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram.

Idrus said he was further advised that Sri Ram, in consultation with the then chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Latheefa Koya, suggested that the proposals be accepted by the anti-graft body.

Thomas resigned from office on Feb 28 while Idrus was appointed on March 6.

Idrus said on March 11, Riza’s solicitors sent another letter of representation fortifying the earlier proposal and undertook that should Riza fail to comply with the terms and conditions, the five charges filed last July would remain.

It, among others, proposed that Riza surrender his rights to three properties seized by the United States’ Department of Justice.

The properties in question were a bungalow in Beverly Hills, California, an apartment in New York, and a townhouse in London.

Hollywood film producer Riza Aziz.

Riza was agreeable to have the monies seized from him forfeited to the government and to pay a compound fine, as provided under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act.

Idrus, in his statement, said he also agreed with the views of Thomas and as such agreed to the offer by Riza.

Thomas is standing firm that he did not make any decision during his time in office to drop the charges against Riza.

On Thursday, the Sessions Court here granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal to Riza who had been charged with five counts of money laundering amounting to US$248 million.

Judge Azman Ahmad allowed the application after Sri Ram told the court the discharge would be subject to the accused fulfilling his side of the bargain.

On the same day, the MACC, in a statement, said Putrajaya was expected to recover overseas assets worth an estimated US$107.3 million should Riza fulfill his promise.

Meanwhile, lawyer A Srimurugan said Article 145 (3) of the constitution and Section 376 of the CPC empowered the AG, who is also public prosecutor, to drop charges against accused persons before judgment was delivered.

“In Riza’s s case, there is a possibility of him being charged again for the same offence should he fail to deliver on the promises as agreed,” he said

Srimurugan said Idrus’s representative, Sri Ram, had also given the reason for the discharge not amounting to an acquittal in the interest of transparency.

“I believe the reason is that it is a public interest case though certain segments of the society may disagree with the prosecution’s decision.”

The lawyer said the agreement was “not a conferment of immunity from prosecution for Riza”.

Sri Murugan said there could be other reasons, but not disclosed, as to why the prosecution wanted to discontinue the case for the time being.

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