A-G: I Acted Upon the Advice That Thomas Agreed to Riza’s Settlement “in Principle”

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Attorney-General (A-G) Tan Sri Idrus Harun today commented on Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz’s money-laundering settlement which has stirred up a storm, clarifying that he acted upon the advice that his predecessor had agreed to the settlement terms “in principle”.

Timeline:

  • Nov 18 – Riza’s lawyers proposed to have charges against their client dropped in return for his properties and monies
  • Nov 19 – Then A-G Tommy Thomas sought the views of Senior DPP Gopal Sr Ram and stated that he was prepared to consider the proposal
  • Sri Ram, in consultation with then MACC chief commissioner Latheefa Koya, allegedly suggested that the proposal be accepted by MACC
  • Idrus claims he was advised that Thomas had agreed to the suggestion in principle
  • March 11 – Riza’s lawyers sent another letter fortifying the earlier proposal
  • Idrus, having been made aware of Thomas’ earlier position and sharing his predecessor’s views as had been informed to him, agreed to accept Riza’s proposal
  • May 14 – Sessions Court allowed the prosecution, led by Sri Ram, to grant Riza an order of discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA)
  • MACC in its statement said: “the agreement between the prosecution and the accused through representation in court was a decision considered and agreed by the former Attorney General, Tan Sri Tommy Thomas”.
  • Responding to MACC’s statement, Thomas accused MACC of lying and said he was not responsible for Riza being granted the DNAA
  • MACC chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki responded that MACC stood by its statement that Thomas had agreed to Riza being granted the DNAA

Following the series of statements issued by former A-G Tan Sri Tommy Thomas and the MACC, Idrus explains the issue in the statement below:

PP v Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz

  1. Riza Shahriz Bin Abdul Aziz (Riza Aziz) was charged with five (5) money laundering offences punishable under Section 4(1) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 (Act 613) for receiving proceeds of an unlawful activity, totalling US$248,173,104.00 linked to 1MDB between April 2011 and November 2012.
  2. Since the filing of the charges, Riza Aziz has made several representations to this Chambers through his solicitors, Messrs Scivetti & Associates. I am made to understand that the chronology of correspondence between the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC)/MACC and Riza Aziz’s solicitors, before my appointment as Attorney General, is as follows:
  3. On Nov 18, 2019, the solicitors sent a letter of representation to this Chambers seeking for a review of all five (5) charges against Riza Aziz in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court. The letter of representation, among others, proposed that Riza Aziz –
  4. Surrender his rights in three (3) properties seized by the United States Department of Justice and for Riza Aziz to facilitate the return of the same or its value, to the government of Malaysia. The properties in question are as follows:
  5. One (1) unit of bungalow located in Beverly Hills, California;
  6. One (1) unit of apartment located in New York, and
  7. One (1) unit of townhouse in London, United Kingdom;
  8. Agreeable to have the monies seized from him which form the subject matter in a related matter before the Kuala Lumpur High Court, be forfeited to the government of Malaysia; and

iii. Pay a compound pursuant to section 92 of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001.

I have been advised that my predecessor Tommy Thomas, after perusing the said letter of representation, via a minute dated Nov 19, 2019, to Senior Deputy Public Prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram, sought the views of the latter, and further stated that in light of the proposals outlined above, he is prepared to consider the representation.

I have been further advised that Gopal Sri Ram, in consultation with the then Chief Commissioner of MACC Latheefa Koya, suggested that the proposals laid down in the letter of representation be accepted by MACC. I have also been advised that Thomas had agreed to the suggestion in principle. This paved the way for further negotiations and planning of the mechanism to be adopted, to take place.

  1. On March 11, 2020, the solicitors sent another letter of representation fortifying the earlier proposal and undertook that, should Riza Aziz fail to comply with the terms and conditions, the original five (5) money laundering charges would remain. This was then presented to me after I had been made aware of Thomas’ earlier position. Having been briefed by the deputy public prosecutors in charge of the matter, I shared the views of my predecessor as had been informed to me, and agreed to accept the offer that was made by Riza Aziz subject to his strict compliance with the terms and conditions.
  2. On April 16, 2020, the MACC replied to the solicitors essentially stating that the public prosecutor was willing to apply for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) on all five (5) charges subject to Riza Aziz taking steps to ensure that the monies and properties seized be transferred to the government of Malaysia, and to pay a compound pursuant to Section 92 of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001.
  3. On April 21, 2020, the MACC wrote to the solicitors instructing Riza Aziz to relinquish his rights, title and interest in another asset identified as the “Metropolis Poster” being a one-framed, 3-sheet colour lithograph poster created by the German artist Heinz Schulz- Neudamm for the 1927 silent film “Metropolis”.
  4. On May 13, 2020, the MACC again wrote to the solicitors instructing Riza Aziz to transfer USD14,087,072.76 held in an escrow account at Huntington National Bank, USA to the government of Malaysia.

With this arrangement, the government of Malaysia is expected to recover approximately US$108 million (subject to the eventual sale proceeds of the assets and deduction of the associated costs thereof) to be credited into the 1MDB Asset Recovery Trust Account. This is in addition to the US$57,036,688.68 which was forfeited earlier in April 2019 from Red Granite Pictures, a company co-owned by Riza Aziz, the funds of which are traceable to 1MDB.

These arrangements are part of the government’s ongoing efforts to recover assets related to 1MDB. I have been informed that negotiations with several parties in the past year, especially in relation to assets located overseas, had resulted in the successful recovery and repatriation of monies which will reduce the government’s burden in repaying 1MDB’s debts. Such negotiations have been complex, requiring close cooperation with authorities abroad, and are continuing.

On May 14, the MACC said that Riza’s settlement was a decision considered and made by Thomas during his stint as A-G.

Thomas resigned on Feb 28.

Seth Akmal/TMI

Thomas subsequently dismissed the claims by MACC that he had agreed to the plea bargain previously and accused the MACC of continuing to lie about his involvement with Riza’s settlement.

According to Sri Ram, the controversy surrounding the decision to discharge Riza should end with the Attorney-General’s statement.

Azman Ghani/The Star

“Once the A-G has made a statement that is the end of the matter.”