Former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas hits back at his successor Tan Sri Idrus Harun’s remarks that Malaysia was expected to recover approximately US$$108 million (RM470 million) after Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz was given a discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) for money-laundering charges linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds.
Thomas set the record straight that:
- he would not have allowed Riza a discharge if he had remained in office
- Idrus’ remarks that he had agreed in principle were fiction
- the purpose of prosecuting Riza was not to strengthen Malaysia’s chances of securing money from the DoJ as the agency would have returned it anyway since it belonged to the country
- the timing of giving Riza a DNAA was premature
- the prosecution had a strong case to convict Riza Aziz of money-laundering
The charges had originally involved US$248 million (RM1.25 billion) linked to 1MDB funds.
The purpose of prosecuting Riza, Thomas added, was not to strengthen Malaysia’s chances of securing monies from the US Department of Justice (DoJ) as the DoJ would have returned these stolen monies in any event because it belongs to Malaysia.
“With the greatest of respect, this is a red herring. By personal diplomacy, we established strong relations with the DoJ after I took office.
“They have returned billions of ringgit and more monies may be released in future by the DoJ,” he said.
“Riza is not offering to pay any new money or monies from any source other than DoJ-seized assets. The US$108 million would in any event be returned by the DoJ to Malaysia.
“Thus, Riza is unnecessarily getting credit for returning monies that are not his. Hence, it is a sweetheart deal for Riza but terrible for Malaysia,” Thomas said.
He also questioned the timing of Riza’s discharge, which he described as “bizarre”.
“In both civil and criminal proceedings that proceed to trial, a plaintiff or the prosecution loses substantial leverage over the adverse party if it withdraws court proceedings before the terms of settlement are completely performed.
“This is elementary. Hence, one needs to question why Riza has been given a DNAA so prematurely,” he added.
Thomas also reiterated that he would have never agreed to such a deal.
“Let me state publicly that I would have never sanctioned this deal. I would have lost all credibility in the eyes of the people of Malaysia whom I endeavoured to serve as public prosecutor to the best of my ability, honestly and professionally if I had approved it.
“I would have betrayed the trust the prime minister and the Pakatan Harapan government had reposed in me,” he said in a statement Monday (May 18).
Thomas said he was satisfied that the prosecution had a strong case to establish the elements of offence against Riza.
“The documentary trail was substantial and highly credible,” he said.
“I took into account the benefits of the AMLA Act 2001 when I decided to charge Riza Aziz in July 2019.
“Upon conviction, the prosecution would have invited the trial judge to impose a sentence commensurate with the severity of the offences, the maximum being 15 years for each charge.”
He said the court could also have imposed a penalty of up to five times the amount involved in the unlawful activities which would have worked out to some US$1.2 billion.
“We would have sought this sum upon his conviction.”
In his statement, Thomas said he had to “put the record straight a second time” as his name was mentioned several times in a press statement issued by Idrus on Sunday (May 17).
In Idrus’ statement, he had said that Thomas had “agreed in principle” to the settlement with Riza, the stepson of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
“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,” Idrus had said.
Idrus’ statement came in the wake of Thomas disputing a claim by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) implicating him in the decision of the case involving Riza.
Thomas said Idrus’ remarks that he had agreed in principle were fiction.
He added that he had made no decision in relation to Riza’s representation up to the date of his resignation.
Thomas said he had not communicated with Idrus since leaving office but had spoken to Sri Ram over the telephone on several occasions between Feb 28 and May 14.
“But this subject was never raised by him. Hence after my resignation, I was kept in the dark on this and all other matters.”
Thomas was the A-G from June 2018 until February this year before he resigned amid the change in political landscape which saw Perikatan Nasional come into power.
As the public prosecutor, Thomas said he personally prosecuted 25 cases, which he probed deeply.
“Only when I was satisfied that the prosecution could secure a conviction did I make the decision to prosecute. It was always a deliberate and properly analysed decision.
“That same rigour was brought to the decision to prosecute Riza. In none of these 25 odd cases did I consider favourably a request by any accused to settle on such terribly poor terms to the prosecution.
“That would have called into question the wisdom and integrity of my decision to prosecute in the first place,” he said.
Thomas said he did not make any decision in relation to Riza’s representation up to the date of his resignation on Feb 28.
“A decision of this importance involving billions of ringgit and significant public interest would be made by me in writing. I did not, and none exist,” he said.
On May 14, Riza was given a DNAA by the Sessions Court here over five counts of money laundering.
Following the court’s decision, the MACC said in a statement that the government was expected to recover overseas assets worth an estimated US$107.3mil (RM465.3mil) with the agreement struck between the prosecution and the accused.
It also said that the agreement, through representation to the authorities, was a decision considered and agreed to by Thomas.
Thomas denied this to a news portal, but the MACC said it stood by its statement.
The former A-G then came out with a full statement with his version of the story.
On Sunday, Idrus issued his statement while lead prosecutor in the case Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram had also come out saying that the controversy should end with the A-G’s statement.