KUALA LUMPUR (May 14): The Sessions Court today granted a request by the prosecution to give a discharge not amounting to an acquittal to Datuk Seri Najib Razak's step-son, Riza Aziz, who was charged with five counts of money laundering amounting to US$248 million (RM1.25 billion), allegedly misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds.
This follows lead prosecutor and former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram applying for the discharge not amounting to an acquittal — subject to Riza returning part of the loot which amounts to “several millions of ringgit”.
However, should the accused fail to return the sum — the amount which is not immediately known but is understood to refer to a substantial figure — the prosecution may reinstate the full charges and prosecute him to the full extent of the law, said the prosecutor.
The discharge was given by Sessions judge Azman Ahmad.
Riza was represented by lawyers Datuk Hariharan Singh Tara Singh and Tania Scivetti.
Sri Ram read a prepared statement in the prosecution's request for the discharge not amounting to an acquittal on Riza, who was formerly a Hollywood producer and co-founder of Red Granite Pictures, the American film production and distribution company that made The Wolf of Wall Street.
The former federal court judge said that since 43-year-old Riza had been charged last July with money laundering, the accused had made several requests for representation by his solicitors with the relevant authorities.
“These representations have been considered most carefully by those concerned and a decision has been arrived [at]. An agreement has been arrived at between the prosecution and the accused under the terms of which the Federal Government will receive a substantial sum running into several millions of ringgit.
“The sums have direct reference to the subject matter of the charges framed in this case. The accused has throughout this process receive adequate and competent legal representation. As a consequence of the agreement arrived at, the charges against the accused will not be proceeded with for the present pending the completion of the agreement.
“If there is satisfactory completion of the agreement then appropriate steps will be taken to ensure that the accused obtains a full acquittal.
“But if there is no satisfactory completion of the agreement reached the prosecution reserves its right to reinstate the charges and to prosecute the accused to the full limit of the law,” Sri Ram added.
When contacted, Hariharan and Scivetti confirmed that their client was granted a discharge not amounting to acquittal.
“We are extremely thankful to the Attorney General’s Chambers and the MACC. Aziz is pleased to make good on his obligations to those authorities and looks forward to beginning the next chapter of his life," said his lawyers.
"But we are not at liberty to disclose what the terms of the settlement are. Sorry," they said when asked about the possible terms or quantum of the settlement.
It was previously reported that Riza had sent a representation letter to the Attorney General's Chambers and the court was awaiting the outcome of it prior to the court fixing dates for trial.
Riza is the son of the former premier's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor from her previous marriage.
According to previous reports, assets belonging to Riza and fugitive financier Low Taek Jho — better known as Jho Low — were seized by the United States Department of Justice in relation to the 1MDB probes.
It was reported that the US had returned US$300 million (RM1.3 billion) of seized 1MDB assets to Malaysia last month.
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