Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Idrus Harun should explain the rationale of his decision for applying for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz’s money-laundering case since the case is related to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) fiasco and is of utmost public importance, say lawyers.
Lawyers told FocusM that the AG cannot rely on the previous AG’s (Tan Sri Tommy Thomas) guidance in arriving at a decision as the buck stopped with him.
Corporate lawyer Balvinder Singh Kenth, partner at Kenth Partnership, said the AG’s statement that he had relied on Thomas’ guidance to withdraw from the proceedings was unacceptable.
“Idrus should not rely on the previous AG’s guidance as he had been in office for more than two months before the case and that gives him adequate time to study the case. The buck should stop with him,” Balvinder told FocusM.
He added that the AG should offer an explanation to the public about his decision as taxpayer monies were involved.
Similarly, civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan told FocusM that the AG should explain his decision in withdrawing from proceedings in the case as it was of public interest.
“He (Idrus) has to provide an explanation on how he arrived at his decision to not continue proceedings in the case. This is a matter of great public interest,” said Shahredzan.
Riza, the stepson of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had been given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal by the Sessions Court over five counts of money-laundering charges involving US$248 mil (RM1.1 bil) linked to 1MDB last week.
Sessions Court judge Azman Ahmad made the ruling after both parties reached an agreement through a representation sent to the Attorney-General's Chambers. Under the deal, Riza will merely relinquish his rights over some US$108 mil in assets, most of which have been seized by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), in return for the acquittal.
Idrus had reportedly said that the decision to grant a discharge not amounting to an acquittal to Riza had the acquiescence of former AG Thomas. This was something that Thomas had vehemently denied twice.
Prominent constitutional lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar had said that the offer made by the AG can be rescinded.
“The confusion was caused by the abrupt resignation of the AG and the new AG taking office midstream of the case and representation; the absence of a full written record of what transpired coupled with the contradictory statements from the various parties; also the seeming inequity and unfavourable nature of the deal. Public interest demands that the deal be rescinded and the prosecution restored to the status quo ante,” said Gurdial.
The deal was heavily criticised because the amount was far lower than the maximum sentences of up to 75 years in jail and RM5.5 bil in fines. It also did not require Riza taking any money out but instead relinquishing his rights, if he had any in the first place, to the seized assets which would have been returned to Malaysia anyway. - May 22, 2020