Dr Mahathir: Riza Aziz plea deal sign of criminals’ influence over Malaysian justice system

On May 14, Riza Aziz was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) over his five counts of money-laundering some US$248 million (RM1.07 billion) alleged to have been siphoned from 1MDB. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
On May 14, Riza Aziz was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) over his five counts of money-laundering some US$248 million (RM1.07 billion) alleged to have been siphoned from 1MDB. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today criticised the concept of a plea bargain in the case of Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz.

On May 14, the stepson of Datuk Seri Najib Razak was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) over his five counts of money-laundering some US$248 million (RM1.07 billion) alleged to have been siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Dr Mahathir said that Malaysia had never practised the concept of a plea bargain, where a criminal suspect offers to help the government in return for concessions to his advantage.

“Plea bargain is practised in the United States of America. Even then it is about information which will give bigger gains to the government.

“It is not about returning stolen money. Most certainly it is not about returning less than half the money stolen,” he wrote in his personal blog Chedet.cc.

He said that the concession given to Riza is unique as he will source the money from funds seized by the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

“Now this money would, by agreement with the previous attorney general (AG), be returned to Malaysia upon proof that it belongs to Malaysia.

“So what Riza is willing to return is less than half of the money which will be seized by the DOJ, which the department is going to return to Malaysia.

“The bigger chunk of the money stolen by Riza would be retained by him. In other words, he is going to retain money stolen by him and be acquitted as well,” he added.

Dr Mahathir said that all the people involved in making this decision are protesting that it was not their call as he said they know that the decision is wrong.

“The public is disgusted and angry. Is this the kind of justice practised in Malaysia?

“There is a new government in Malaysia. This government is in place because it has the support of people presently being tried for stealing money, for money laundering and for corruption.

“We, in fact, have a government backed by people with criminal backgrounds. We cannot feel sure that justice will be upheld in this country, because of the power and influence of these criminals,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said that Malaysia is now back to square one, where the world once labelled Malaysia as a kleptocracy (government of thieves) when Najib was the prime minister.

“There was recovery of the respect of the world when the people chose the coalition of opposition parties to form the government.

“But now the kleptocrats are back because the president of the party which pledged to overthrow Najib has brought him back,” he said.

With the kleptocrat returns, Dr Mahathir said that a practice unheard of in Malaysia has been used and is likely to offer to withdraw charges against other thieves if they would return a fraction of the money they had stolen.

“Najib campaigns with the slogan “Why be ashamed of your boss being a thief”. And those Malaysians who now brought him back are truly not ashamed of bringing back a thief to be in the government,” he said.

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