Malaysian lawyers say anti-graft agency must explain heat over case involving Najib's stepson

Mr Riza Aziz (left) with his lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on May 13, 2020.
Mr Riza Aziz (left) with his lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on May 13, 2020.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Senior lawyers are calling on the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) to explain the contradictory statements between the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and former government prosecutor Tommy Thomas over the case involving the stepson of ex-premier Najib Razak.

Senior lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla said Attorney-General Idrus Harun should clear the air of any negative perception and protect the good name of the rightful parties.

Mr Haniff said it was "unhealthy" to have such a blatant contradiction and denial left unchecked.

"This can scar the integrity and position of those involved, whether Thomas, the appointed prosecutor (in the case) Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram or the MACC, " he said.

On Thursday (May 14), Najib's stepson, film producer Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal on five counts of money laundering involving US$248 million (S$354 million) by a Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court.

Following the court's decision, the MACC said the government was expected to recover overseas assets worth an estimated US$107.3 million from an agreement between the prosecution and the accused.

It also said that the agreement, through representation to the authorities, was a decision considered and agreed by ex-A-G Thomas.

Tan Sri Thomas, however, denied this in his statement to an online news site.

"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.

"I am terribly disappointed that the MACC had to make this false statement, " he was quoted as saying.

Senior lawyer Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu said Mr Thomas should lodge a police report and file a civil suit over the matter.

 
 

"There are action plans available to Thomas to clear his name. The MACC is bold enough to make a statement. Surely, they have a concrete foundation, " he said.

On Riza's discharge, Mr Baljit said under Article 145 of the Federal Constitution and Section 245 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the public prosecutor had wide discretionary powers to discontinue any proceeding at any stage of the trial before the court made its judgment.

"The order of a discharge not amounting to an acquittal does not prevent the prosecution from charging Riza again based on the same facts and the plea of double jeopardy as provided under Article 7 of the Federal Constitution does not apply, " he said.

Riza, 43, claimed trial to the charges in July last year.

The money, believed to be misappropriated from 1MDB funds, was said to have been wired through five transactions into two bank accounts belonging to Red Granite Productions, a film production and distribution company based in Los Angeles which Riza co-founded.

According to the charge sheets, the sums of - US$1,173,104; US$9 million; US$133 million; US$60 million and US$45 million - were allegedly channelled from Good Star and Aabar Investments PJS into the bank accounts through wire transfers.

 
 

Good Star is linked to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, who is a central figure in the 1MDB scandal and who is in hiding.

Riza was accused of committing the offences at City National Bank, Los Angeles, and BSI Bank in Singapore between April 12,2011 and Nov 14,2012.

The charges were framed under Section 4(1) (a) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001, which carries a fine not exceeding RM5 million or imprisonment not more than five years, or both, upon conviction.