AGC: Former AG agreed on Riza Aziz’s decision in principle

Thomas’ agreement to the suggestion in principle paved the way for further negotiations and planning of the mechanism to take place

by ASILA JALIL/ pic by TMR FILE

ATTORNEY General (AG) Tan Sri Idrus Harun clarified yesterday that the decision regarding Hollywood producer Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz’s (picture) money-laundering settlement was made according to the views and position held by his predecessor Tan Sri Tommy Thomas.

In a statement, Idrus said he was advised that Thomas was prepared to consider Riza Shahriz’s letter of representation after perusing the letter via a minute dated Nov 19, 2019, to deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram.

He also stated he was further advised that Sri Ram, with then Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Latheefa Koya, suggested that the proposals laid down in the letter of representation be accepted by the agency.

“I have also been advised that Thomas has agreed to the suggestion in principle. This paved the way for further negotiations and planning of the mechanism to be adopted, to take place,” he said.

Riza’s solicitors, Messrs Scivetti & Associates, sent a letter of representation to the Attorney General’s Chamber (AGC) on Nov 18 last year seeking for a review of all five charges against Riza Shahriz or better known as Riza Aziz.

The letter also proposed that Riza Aziz surrender his rights in three properties seized by the US Department of Justice, as well as for him to facilitate the return of the same or its value to the government of Malaysia.

The three properties are a bungalow in Beverly Hills, a New York apartment and a townhouse in London.

Along with that, the letter also proposed the money seized from Riza Aziz be forfeited to the government and for him to pay a compound pursuant to Section 92 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001.

“On March 11, 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 money laundering charges would remain.

“This was then presented to me after I had been made aware of Thomas’ earlier position. Having been briefed by the DPP 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.

Idrus added that the government is expected to recover approximately US$108 million (RM469.8 million) worth of assets owned by Riza Aziz to be credited into the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) Asset Recovery Trust Account.

The amount is in addition to the US$57 million obtained by the US authorities in April 2019 from Red Granite Pictures, a company co-owned by Riza Aziz.

On top of the three assets stated in the above mentioned letter dated Nov 18, the MACC on April 21, 2020, wrote a letter to Riza Aziz’s solicitors and sought him to relinquish his rights, title and interest in another asset identified as “Metropolis Poster”, a one-framed, three-sheet colour lithograph poster created by German artist Heinz Schulz-Neudamm for the 1927 silent film Metropolis, said Idrus in the statement.

He added that the agency also instructed Riza Aziz to transfer US$14.09 million held in an escrow account at Huntington National Bank in the US to the government.

“These arrangements are 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 would reduce the government’s burden in repaying 1MDB’s debts.

“Such negotiations have been complex, requiring close cooperation with authorities abroad and are continuing,” added Idrus.

Last Thursday, Riza Aziz, who is the stepson of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, was discharged but not amounting to an acquittal, on money laundering charges involving US$248 million, allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB funds.

Judge Azman Ahmad made the ruling after both parties agreed to it following several representations filed by Riza Aziz against the charges.

Following the decision, Thomas said last week that his name was wrongly and unfairly dragged into the case.

In reference to the MACC’s statement on May 14, claiming that the agreement between the prosecution and the accused, through representation in court, was a decision previously considered and agreed upon by Thomas, the former AG dismissed all claims, dismissing them as “lies”.

“Whether I personally acted in agreeing to their request for a discharge is an altogether separate issue. I did not. It is as plain and simple as that,” he said.

Thomas said he did not receive any advice from Sri Ram on the case until the day he resigned on Feb 28.

“Thus, I did not decide on the representations of Riza Aziz prior to my resignation,” said Thomas.