KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 — The anger and discontentment expressed by Malaysians over a recent decision by the Sessions Court to grant Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) for five money-laundering charges is understandable and warranted, said Tun Daim Zainuddin.
The former finance minister, in an interview published by The Malaysian Insight (TMI), asserted the dissatisfaction from the people arose from the inconsistent punishments meted by the courts against those breaking the law.
“The rakyat wants to know why, when you steal Milo you go to jail, but when you steal billions of ringgit, you walk away smiling?
“The rakyat think it is a really good deal for him (Riza).
“He does not have to spend any time behind bars and he is allowed to keep more than RM500 million in stolen money,” Daim was quoted in the report.
The former government adviser also pointed out how the DNAA settlement between Riza Aziz and the government appeared to be more beneficial for the stepson of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, saying the deal appeared lopsided.
“Of course, people are angry. He did not offer any additional repayment — all those properties had already been seized and would have been returned to Malaysia anyway.
“Furthermore, the sum they are bandying about is what those properties are valued at.
“It does not mean that that is the amount they will be auctioned off.
“People would like to know why he is not in jail and why he is allowed to keep more than half of the money he is accused of stealing,” questioned Daim.
In May, Riza was granted a conditional release from five counts of money-laundering charges over more than US$248 million (RM1.08 billion by today’s exchange rate) of alleged 1MDB funds.
The Sessions Court had granted Riza the DNAA upon the prosecution’s request, as the prosecution and Riza had reached an agreement for a settlement where the federal government would receive a substantial sum of millions of ringgit.
Although the settlement value was initially unspecified, Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun had said it would result in the Malaysian government’s expected recovery of around US$108 million (subject to the eventual proceeds from the sale of assets that Riza would have to give up his rights to and after deduction of associated costs) to be credited into the 1MDB Asset Recovery Trust Account.
In the event Riza fails to comply with conditions within the settlement, the prosecution can haul him to court once again to face the same 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), with each charge punishable with a maximum RM5 million fine or maximum five-year jail term or both.
Riza was accused of receiving a total of US$248,173,104 between April 2011 and November 2012, with the funds alleged to have been transferred 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.