KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — The lawyers for Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz today declined to reveal the terms of the settlement that resulted in him being conditionally discharged of five money-laundering charges involving US$248 million allegedly linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
Instead, they were only willing to say he is looking forward to a new chapter in his life.
Riza’s case was high-profile and had garnered attention as he is the stepson of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and as the son of Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, as well as his role in co-founding Hollywood production house Red Granite Pictures.
Earlier today, the Sessions Court granted the prosecution's application for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) order in Riza's case, following Riza's agreement with the prosecution to pay millions in ringgit to the Malaysian government.
"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," lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram had read out in court when seeking for the DNAA order.
Malay Mail contacted Riza's lawyers to enquire about the terms of the settlement, such as whether there were other terms besides the agreement to pay the unspecified sum of money, and what was the specific amount that was agreed to be paid.
Riza's lawyers, Datuk Hariharan Tara Singh and Tania Scivetti, then confirmed that their client was granted a DNAA today and that the court ordered for the RM1 million bail to be returned to Riza's two bailors, but said they were "not at liberty to disclose what are the terms of the settlement".
"We are extremely thankful to the Attorney General’s Chambers and the MACC. Mr. Aziz is pleased to make good on his obligations to those authorities and looks forward to beginning the next chapter of his life," the lawyers said in a brief statement in response.
When asked by Malay Mail whether there were other terms besides the agreement to pay, Hariharan confirmed that he was unable to disclose this.
Earlier today, Sri Ram, who was leading the prosecution team against Riza, said that the prosecution will not be proceeding with the charges against Riza for now, pending the completion of the agreement.
Sri Ram also said that steps would be taken to ensure Riza receives an acquittal if the agreement is satisfactorily completed, but noted that the prosecution reserves the right to reinstate the charges and to prosecute Riza if he fails to fulfill the agreement.
When seeking for the DNAA order, Sri Ram also noted that Riza made several representations through his lawyers to the authorities, and that the decision to seek for a DNAA was arrived at after careful consideration of the representations and after the agreement was reached.
Riza was previously reported to have sent a representation on November 18, 2019 to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for a review of the charges against him, with his trial yet to have started as a decision on his representation was previously pending.
What were the charges
On July 5, 2019, Riza — who is also co-founder of the Hollywood production house Red Granite Pictures and son of Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor — was charged with five counts of money-laundering under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 (AMLATFA).
Riza had pleaded not guilty and claimed trial to the five charges, which are each punishable by a maximum RM5 million fine or maximum five-year jail term or both.
He was accused of receiving a total of US$248,173,104 (equivalent to about RM1.026 billion by the exchange rate on the day he was charged or over RM1.075 billion by today’s exchange rate) between April 2011 and November 2012.
The funds were alleged to have flowed in cross-border transactions from two Switzerland bank accounts of two companies named in the massive 1MDB financial scandal — Good Star Limited and Aabar Investments PJS Limited — to the US bank account of Red Granite Productions Inc and the Singapore bank account of Red Granite Capital Ltd
The first two sums from Good Star’s RBS Coutts account into Red Granite Productions Inc’s City National Bank account are US$1,173,104 (April 12 to May 12, 2011) and US$9 million (September 10 to October 10, 2012).
The remaining three charges are over the sums of US$133 million (June 18, 2012), US$60 million (October 23, 2012), US$45 million (November 14, 2012), all allegedly transferred from Aabar Investments PJS Limited’s BSI SA account to Red Granite Capital Ltd’s BSI Bank (Singapore) account.
At the time he was charged, the Sessions Court had imposed a RM1 million bail with two bailors, and had also ordered for a travel ban to be imposed on Riza until the conclusion of the case. Also at that time, Riza had said he did not have a valid passport and his lawyer Datuk K. Kumaraendran had also informed the court that there was already an existing travel ban imposed on his client.
Asked today by Malay Mail whether the Sessions Court today touched on the topic of travel bans on Riza, Hariharan confirmed that the “court did not say anything” about this matter.
What DNAA means
In criminal cases before the court, there are several outcomes possible: such as a conviction and sentencing of an accused; or an acquittal of an accused; or a discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) of an accused which effectively means release from the charges but with the possibility for the accused to face trial for the same charges in the future if the prosecution decides to reinstate charges.
In other words, a DNAA means that an accused has not been acquitted of the charges, but is merely discharged of the charges.
When explaining the effect of a DNAA order, criminal lawyer Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu — who was not involved in Riza's case — told Malay Mail that a DNAA order does not prevent the prosecution from charging the accused again based on the same facts, and that the plea of double jeopardy based on the Federal Constitution's Article 7 would not be applicable.
Among other things, Article 7 of the Federal Constitution states that a person who has been acquitted or convicted of an offence shall not be tried again for the same offence, except where the conviction or acquittal was quashed and a retrial ordered by a higher court than the court where he was charged or acquitted.