KUALA LUMPUR: Former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas has declared that he would have never agreed to the deal which saw film producer Riza Abdul Aziz getting a discharge from money laundering charges involving US$248mil (RM1.25bil) linked to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) fund.
“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 a 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 yesterday.
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 his successor Tan Sri Idrus Harun on Sunday.
In his statement, Idrus 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,” he had said.
“This paved the way for further negotiations and planning of the mechanism to be adopted, to take place.”
His 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’s remarks that he had agreed in principle was fiction. He also hit back at Idrus’s remarks that Malaysia was expected to recover about US$108mil (RM469.9mil) from the deal.
“With the greatest of respect, this is a red herring. By personal diplomacy, we established strong relations with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) after I took office.
“They have returned billions of ringgit, and more monies may be released in future by the DOJ,” he said.
The purpose of prosecuting Riza, Thomas added, was not to strengthen Malaysia’s chances of securing monies from the DOJ as the DOJ would have returned these stolen monies in any event because it belongs to Malaysia.
“Thus, Riza is unnecessarily getting credit for returning monies that were not his. Hence, it is a sweetheart deal for Riza but terrible for Malaysia,” Thomas added.
He also questioned the timing of Riza’s discharge, which he described as “bizarre”.
“In both civil and criminal proceedings which 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 discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) so prematurely,” he added.
Thomas was the attorney general from June 2018 until February this year before he resigned amid the change in the political landscape which saw Perikatan Nasional come into power.
As the public prosecutor, Thomas said he personally prosecuted 25 cases which he probed thoroughly.
“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,” 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 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. Thomas 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 Idrus’s statement.
Did you find this article insightful?
94% readers found this article insightful