Lawyers: Contrary statements by Thomas, MACC on Riza case must be addressed

KUALA LUMPUR: The Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) must explain the contradiction in statements between the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and former Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas (pic) over the discharge given to film producer Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz who was accused of money laundering.

Senior lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla said AG Tan Sri Idrus Harun should clear the air and protect the good name of the rightful parties.

He was commenting on the latest development relating to Riza's case, where the stepson of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal on five counts of money laundering charges involving US$248mil (RM1.25bil) by the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court on Thursday (May 14).

Following the court's decision, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said in a statement that the government was expected to recover overseas assets worth an estimated US$107.3mil (RM465.3mil) following an 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, however, denied this in his statement to The Malaysian Insight.

"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 reportedly said.

Haniff said it was "unhealthy" to leave such a blatant contradiction and denial unaddressed.

"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.

Meanwhile, senior lawyer Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu said 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 added.

On Riza's discharge, Baljit said under Article 145 of the Federal Constitution and Section 245 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the public prosecutor has wide discretionary powers to discontinue any proceedings at any stage of the trial before the court makes 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 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 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.

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