KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 — Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Idrus Harun today commented on Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz’s money-laundering settlement which has stirred up a storm, clarifying that he acted upon the advice that his predecessor had agreed to the settlement terms “in principle”.
Explaining the issue, Idrus said he had been advised that his predecessor, former AG Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, via a minute dated November 19 last year to ad hoc deputy public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram had said he was prepared to consider Riza’s letter of representation submitted by his lawyers.
Idrus said he was also subsequently advised by Sri Ram that Thomas had agreed to the suggestion in principle, with then Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Latheefa Koya also suggesting the proposals laid down in the letter of representation be accepted by MACC.
“This paved the way for further negotiations and planning of the mechanism to be adopted, to take place.
“On 11th March 2020, the Solicitors sent another letter of representation fortifying the earlier proposal and undertook that, should Riza Aziz fail to comply with the terms and conditions, the original five (5) money laundering charges would remain.
“This was then presented to me after I had been made aware of Tan Sri Thomas’ earlier position.
“Having been briefed by the Deputy Public Prosecutors in charge of the matter, I shared the views of my predecessor as had been informed to me, and agreed to accept the offer that was made by Riza Aziz subject to his strict compliance with the terms and conditions,” he said in a statement.
On May 14, MACC said the Malaysian government is expected to recover an estimated US$107.3 million (RM465.3 million) worth of overseas assets involved in the money-laundering charges as a result of the settlement, with the agreement also requiring Riza to pay a compound to the government as an alternative to the charges.
MACC further added that Riza’s settlement was a decision considered and made by Thomas during his stint as AG.
Riza, who is also Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s stepson, had filed his representation on November 18 last year, while Thomas quit as AG in late February after former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad tendered his own resignation following a political crisis.
Thomas subsequently dismissed the claims by MACC that he had agreed to the plea bargain previously and accused the MACC of continuing to lie about his involvement with Riza Aziz’s settlement.
According to Idrus, among the terms of settlement proposed by Riza’s lawyers in a letter dated November 18, 2019, were that the accused was to surrender his rights in three residential properties seized by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in Beverly Hills, California and New York in the United States and in London, United Kingdom as well as monies seized from him be forfeited by the Malaysian government.
In the latest development, Idrus said MACC had written to Riza’s lawyers on May 13 instructing Riza to transfer US$14,087,072.76 held in an escrow account at Huntington National Bank, USA to the Malaysian Government.
“With this arrangement, the government of Malaysia is expected to recover approximately US$108 million (subject to the eventual sale proceeds of the assets and deduction of the associated costs thereof) to be credited into the 1MDB Asset Recovery Trust Account.
“This is in addition to the US$57,036,688.68 which was forfeited earlier in April 2019 from Red Granite Pictures, a company co-owned by Riza, the funds of which are traceable to 1MDB,” Idrus said.
He added that these arrangements were part of the government’s ongoing efforts to recover assets related to 1MDB.
“I have been informed that negotiations with several parties in the past year, especially in relation to assets located overseas, had resulted in the successful recovery and repatriation of monies which will reduce the government’s burden in repaying 1MDB’s debts.
Such negotiations have been complex, requiring close cooperation with authorities abroad, and are continuing,” he said.
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 pleaded not guilty and claimed trial to the five charges, which are each punishable with 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.