Discharge without acquittal for Riza

KUALA LUMPUR: Film producer Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz has been given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal by the Sessions Court here over five counts of money laundering involving US$248mil (RM1.25bil) linked to the controversial 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Judge Azman Ahmad made the ruling after both parties reached an agreement through a representation that was sent to the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC).

However, 43-year-old Riza may face the law again if he fails to comply with the agreement.

The case was initially fixed for case management yesterday.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram read a prepared statement to the court, saying that Riza, who is the stepson of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had made several representations to the AGC since he was first charged.

Sri Ram said the representations had been considered “most carefully” by those concerned.

“An agreement has been arrived at between the prosecution and the accused under the terms of which the Federal Government will receive a substantial sum running into several million ringgit.

“The sums have direct reference to the subject matter of the charges framed in this case, ” Sri Ram said.

As a consequence of the agreement, the prosecutor said the charges framed against Riza would not proceed pending the completion of the agreement.

“The prosecution with the consent of the accused now respectfully moves the court for an order of discharge not amounting to an acquittal, ” Sri Ram said.

He also said that if the agreement had been satisfactorily completed, appropriate steps would be taken to ensure the accused obtained a full acquittal.

“But if there is no satisfactory completion of the agreement reached, the prosecution reserves its right to reinstate the charges and to prosecute the accused to the full limit of the law, ” he said.

Sri Ram also said that Riza, who was represented by lawyers Datuk Hariharan Tara Singh and Tania Scivetti, had received adequate and competent legal representation throughout the process.

After the statement was read, Azman made the order for discharge not amounting to an acquittal.

The court also ordered for Riza’s RM1mil bail in two sureties to be returned.

On July 5 last year, Riza pleaded not guilty to five counts of money laundering.

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 Inc, a film production and distribution company based in Los Angeles which Riza co-founded.

According to the charge sheets, the sum – US$1,173,104 (RM4.8mil); US$9mil (RM37.1mil); US$133mil (RM549.2mil); US$60mil (RM247.7mil) and US$45mil (RM185.8mil) – was allegedly channelled from Good Star Ltd and Aabar Investments PJS Ltd into the bank accounts through wire transfers.

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

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

The charges were framed according to Section 4(1) (a) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001, which carries a fine not exceeding RM5mil or imprisonment not exceeding five years, or both, upon conviction.

Riza’s lawyers said they were not at liberty to disclose the terms of the settlement.

“We are extremely thankful to the AGC and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. Riza is pleased to make good on his obligations to those authorities and looks forward to beginning the next chapter of his life, ” they said in a statement.

Red Granite produced the Oscar-nominated movie The Wolf of Wall Street, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie.

In a statement later yesterday, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said the government was expected to recover foreign assets worth US$107.3mil (RM465.3mil) as part of the deal.

It added that the deal was agreed upon between the prosecution and the accused under former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas.

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