Riza Aziz’s discharge indeed a plea bargain and not proof of innocence, Dr Mahathir tells Najib

Riza Aziz arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court in this file picture taken on July 4, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Riza Aziz arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court in this file picture taken on July 4, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — The discharge of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s step-son Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz’s charge of money-laundering still does not absolve him from his criminal charges, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad insisted today.

According to the former prime minister, Riza simply had to give back less than half of the amount that he was accused of laundering, which to Dr Mahathir was a “generosity” and a clear plea bargain.

“What do you call this generosity if it is not plea bargain? As Anwar said, in Malaysia you can steal ten chickens but if you give back one chicken then you are free to enjoy the nine others,” Dr Mahathir wrote in his blog, referring to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The Langkawi MP was referring to Umno MP Najib’s recent remarks claiming the decision over Riza was purportedly proper since money laundering is not a crime in Malaysia, and therefore the settlement was not a plea bargain.

“Call it by any name but the settlement is unique,” Dr Mahathir said.

“But we have to keep a close watch of our pockets and safes. And foreign tourists too should be careful, as this is the new normal in Malaysia,” he added.

A week after Riza’s discharge, Dr Mahathir had then criticised the concept of a plea bargain for the specific case.

He argued then that such a practice was not customary in Malaysia unlike the United States, in which a criminal suspect offers to help the government in return for concessions to his advantage.

Last month, Riza was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal over his five counts of money-laundering some US$248 million (RM1.07 billion) alleged to have been siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) after he agreed to pay several million ringgit to the Malaysian government.

On the same day, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was not involved with the controversial decision, insisting it was achieved by the prosecutors and the accused through the latter’s representation to the Attorney General’s Chambers.

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