Hollywood producer Riza Aziz—who is also the stepson of scandal-mared ex-Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak—has been granted a discharge not amounting to acquittal over several charges in the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) money-laundering case involving US$248 million (S$349 million).
According to a statement from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on Thursday (14 May), the prosecution applied to the court for the conditional release based on agreement between both parties.
Mr Aziz is required to pay a compound to the Government under Section 9 of the nation’s Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing, and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 as an alternative punishment to the charges brought against him. The Malaysian government is expected to recover overseas assets estimated RM465.3 million (S$152.92 million), according to the MACC statement.
However, if Mr Aziz does not satisfactorily complete the agreement, the prosecution could reinstate the charges and prosecute him in court.
The statement also noted that this agreement was considered and agreed upon by the former Attorney General (AG), Tan Sri Tommy Thomas.
Mr Thomas was appointed as Malaysia’s AG under the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad. However, he resigned following the collapse of the PH government which was taken over by a new coalition, Perikatan Nasional.
Former AG says MACC statement is false
Following MACC’s statement, Mr Thomas came forward on the same day to deny that he had agreed to the Government’s decision to discharge Mr Aziz.
“I am terribly disappointed that the MACC had to make this false statement,” said the former AG to The Edge Markets.
Mr Thomas stated that there was no agreement to drop the charges against Mr Aziz at the point of his resignation about two and a half months ago.
“It is wholly untrue and a fabrication to say that I had agreed to the decision,” he asserted.
Mr Thomas noted that his then-special officer at the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) Rahayu Mamuzaini told him that Mr Aziz’s lawyers had made written representations on this to the AGC. Mr Thomas went through them and subsequently forwarded it to the lead prosecutor in the trial, Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram.
MACC stands by its statement
Despite Mr Thomas’ assertion that he did not agree to such an agreement regarding Mr Aziz’s case, the MACC chief Azam Baki responded that the statement it released was based on the decision by the prosecution team.
He said to Free Malaysia Today, “This is an ongoing case in court, so whatever decision is made by the deputy public prosecutor.
“We inform the public about what’s happening. That’s all.”
Mr Baki explained that the deputy public prosecutor on the case told the commission that Mr Thomas had agreed on the decision, adding that MACC would not have made by confirmation to the public had it not first received a statement and permission from the public prosecutor’s office.
“Never mind if the former AG wants to deny, that’s up to him. We stand by our statement,” emphasised Mr Baki.
Riza Aziz and the 1MDB scandal
Mr Aziz, the son of Mr Razak wife Rosmah Mansor from a previous marriage, was charged with five counts of money laundering involving US$248,173,104 (S$349 million) in which he was accused of receiving between April 2011 and November 2012.
The money was allegedly transferred from two Switzerland bank accounts of two different companies—Good Star Limited and Aabar Investments PJS Limited—which were identified in the 1MDB financial scandal, to the United States bank account of Red Granite Productions Inc and the Singapore bank account of Red Granite Capital Ltd.
The Hollywood producer, who co-founded the Red Granite Pictures production house, pleaded not guilty to the charges and went to trial. With each charge, he faced a maximum fine of RM5 million (S$1.6 million) or a maximum jail term of five years or both.