Questions over Riza’s money laundering deal

The deal which the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had struck with movie producer Riza Aziz, the step-son of Najib Razak, on sentencing over alleged misappropriation of 1MDB funds raises many questions.

On May14, the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court granted Riza a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) on a charge of money laundering involving US$248 million (RM1.08 billion) linked to 1MDB funds.

The DNAA was conditional upon the return of foreign assets linked to the alleged crime estimated at US$107.3 million (RM465.3 million). Failure to comply with the order will result in Riza having to face the same charges in court.

MACC chief Azam Baki claimed that former attorney-general Tommy Thomas had agreed to the deal, but various facts do not substantiate his claim.

Thomas resigned on Feb 28, but according to a news report in The Edge, on April 2, the AGC had yet to “answer a representation by Riza to review his money-laundering charges”.

This information had been disclosed by Riza’s lawyer, Hariharan Tara Singh, when asked about the outcome of the representation.

If Thomas’ alleged deal with Riza had been arranged before his resignation and had been agreed upon by both parties, why would Riza’s lawyer ask the AGC for a confirmation about the charges that had been levied against him?

This suggests that no deal had been struck between Thomas and Riza or, if a deal had been mentioned, Thomas had not agreed to it.

So, why is Azam adamant that Thomas had struck a deal? According to The Malaysian Insight, Thomas said: “I am terribly disappointed that the MACC had to make this false statement.”

Azam must have realised that the deal would have outraged the public. If he was genuinely concerned about this public interest case, why did he not query the details of the deal with new Attorney-General Idrus Harun?

Perhaps, Azam could have contacted Thomas to verify if he had indeed agreed to the deal. Instead, he told the press that Thomas had agreed to the deal.

Thomas has denied the MACC’s claim that he had agreed to the plea bargain. He was aware that Riza’s lawyers had made representations to his chambers regarding the money laundering charges against their client because the matter had been brought to his attention by his special officer, Rahayu Mamuzaini, when he was still the AG. After scrutiny, the documents were passed to the special prosecutor, Gopal Sri Ram.

By the time Thomas had left the AGC, he said there had been no progress with the prosecution.

Thomas said: “I resigned two-and-a-half months ago, and up to that point, there was no agreement to drop charges against Riza. So, it is wholly untrue and a fabrication to say that I had agreed to the decision.”

Azam claimed he was told about Thomas’ plea bargain by a deputy public prosecutor involved in the case.

Azam said: “This is an ongoing case in court, so whatever decision is made by the deputy public prosecutor. We inform the public about what’s happening. That’s all.

“Without their statement and permission, we wouldn’t have made any kind of confirmation to the public. This is what we were informed.”

So, who is the nameless DPP that Azam referred to and did he furnish written proof to Azam about Thomas’ deal?

It is curious that the new AG did not scrutinise any deals or judgments that relate to high-profile cases such as Riza’s.

Why is the new AG silent about this deal which has enraged the public?

Did Azam verify with Sri Ram that the DPP had told him the truth?

This deal has serious ramifications. It does not give the rakyat any confidence in either the AGC or the MACC.

Apart from Riza and his family, who else has been spared public humiliation, and who has the most to benefit from this deal?

The rakyat gains nothing from this deal but the mixed message that is sent by this deal is worrying. The deal implies that if you are charged with having stolen or misappropriated vast amounts of money, you can escape jail and a hefty fine by returning half the loot.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.