PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Najib Razak has disputed Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement that the “plea bargaining” in the money laundering case involving his stepson, Riza Aziz, had set a dangerous precedent for future cases.
Najib said the settlement of Riza’s case was not a plea bargain as claimed by Mahathir, as the Hollywood producer had been charged under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 (AMLA Act) and not as a criminal case under the Penal Code.
He said plea bargains were only for criminal cases, not civil suits, and it was true Malaysia did not employ such settlements for criminal cases.
Last week, the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court granted Riza, who had been charged with five counts of money laundering amounting to US$248 million tied to 1MDB, a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNNA). Putrajaya said it expected to recover overseas assets worth an estimated US$107.3 million from the accused.
“Riza is not only returning half of the amount of money he had received which is suspected to be linked with 1MDB, as claimed by Mahathir,” said Najib in a Facebook post today..
“Riza has already returned a part of the US$60 million settlement last year and also paid back tens of thousands of dollars to Abu Dhabi investors before 2016, as revealed by the MACC audio recordings.
“It does not make sense for the US DoJ (Department of Justice) and attorney-general not to take back all the funds suspected of having problems.”
Najib said the funds and assets Riza had agreed to pay back were not seized by DoJ, highlighting that there were no decisions or settlements in the US for assets to be surrendered to them.
He also asked why former attorney-general Tommy Thomas had not charged Riza under the Penal Code or MACC Act if it were true that his stepson had committed abuse of power, theft or criminal conspiracy.
“If there is solid evidence that Riza was guilty and that it would be easy to win the case, why did Thomas agree to consider the settlement?
“Mahathir is contradicting his own lawyer, Haniff Khatri, who said that Riza’s case settlement was prudent.”
Mahathir had said yesterday the money laundering charges dropped against Riza after a plea bargain had set a dangerous precedent for future cases.
He said the amount Riza was to return would be sourced from the money seized by DoJ, which the department had already agreed to return to the previous administration upon proof that it belonged to Malaysia.
Stressing that Riza would return less than half of the money seized by the DoJ, Mahathir said the acquittal had left the public “disgusted and angry”.
Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.