Heated exchange in Parliament after Takiyuddin insists ex-AG Tommy Thomas agreed in principle to Riza Aziz’s 1MDB settlement

Law Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan is pictured at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Law Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan is pictured at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 — Law Minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan affirmed today that former attorney general (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas had in principle agreed to Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz’s money-laundering settlement over US$248 million in funds linked to the 1MDB scandal.

Speaking during his winding-up speech on the King’s address in the Dewan Rakyat, Takiyuddin also read aloud an excerpt of Thomas’ minutes on Riza’s letter of representation as submitted by his lawyers.

“This is important. A day after Riza’s lawyer made a representation to the AG, on November 19, 2019, Tommy Thomas scrutinised the letter of representation and after studying it, Thomas as then AG had made a handwritten note with a red ink on top of the letter.

“I read this true copy. The letter is addressed to someone named Ram, everyone knows him,” Takiyuddin said, referring to lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram who was appointed by Thomas to conduct the prosecution.

“‘Ram, in light of the statement in paragraphs 5.10, 5.14, 5.15, 5.18 and 5.19, I am prepared to consider this representation. Paragraph 5.20 contains the term of the proposed settlement, I await your advice. Signed TT, 19/11 attorney general with a rubber stamp,’ the minute reads.

“In other words, the AG in general had agreed for Riza Aziz’s case to be compounded and settled without being prosecuted. That is important,” he said.

Takiyuddin added that records in the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) revealed that Sri Ram held discussions with the then Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Latheefa Koya, with the former suggesting that the MACC accept Riza’s representation.

“Therefore, on March 11, Riza’s solicitors sent another letter of representation fortifying the earlier proposal and undertook Riza would comply with the terms and conditions.

“Subsequent to that, when Perikatan Nasional took over the government and there was a change in the AG, the new AG was briefed by his deputy public prosecutors handling the case and they informed the AG of the stance made by the previous AG,” he said.

This then prompted Sepang MP Mohamed Hanipa Maidin to rebuff Takiyuddin, accusing the minister of misleading the August House.

“To me, you cannot just draw a conclusion that Thomas agreed to the settlement. He said he was prepared, then he said he was waiting for advice from Gopal Sri Ram.

“To me, based on the letter, Gopal Sri Ram had to give advice but that doesn’t mean he had to follow but Yang Berhormat said he had agreed. To me, that is misleading.

“So I think Yang Berhormat is misleading this Parliament. You are misleading ! You are misleading!” Hanipah remarked.

Takiyuddin responded by repeatedly saying Sri Ram had discussed with Latheefa on the settlement but his voice was drowned out by the commotion caused by Hanipah.

Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker and Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said then proceeded to mute the microphones of both government and opposition lawmakers as the exchange became heated.

Resuming his speech, Takiyuddin said Riza’s case had been decided in court based on existing laws before questioning whether Hanipah intended to challenge said decision.

He had earlier cited Section 92 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act which provides for the matter to be compounded by the authorities with the consent of the public prosecutor and Section 172 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) that allows the defence to enter into a plea bargain with the prosecution.

In May, Thomas had declared that he would never have approved the “sweetheart deal” that resulted in Riza’s conditional discharge from the latter’s criminal charges the same month.

This follows Thomas’ successor, Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun who claimed that he acted upon the advice that his predecessor had agreed to the settlement terms “in principle”.

According to Idrus, he said he was also subsequently advised by Sri Ram that Thomas had agreed to the suggestion in principle, with Latheefa also suggesting the proposals laid down in the letter of representation be accepted by MACC.

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.

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