THE Sessions Court’s granting of a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) to Riza Aziz, the stepson of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, still rankles many who perceive the action as an injustice, especially since he was only required to repay part of the amount involved in the money laundering charges he faced.
On May 14, Riza was granted a DNAA on the condition that he disgorge assets amounting to US$108 million, cash of about US$14 million — both allegedly linked to funds stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) — as well as pay a compound fine under Section 92 of Act 613, reportedly amounting to RM500,000.
The amount appears to be a sweetheart deal for Riza, 43, given that the former Hollywood producer and co-founder of Red Granite Pictures had faced five counts of money laundering involving US$248 million (RM1.25 billion), for which he claimed trial last year. His lawyers sent a representation in November 2019, which was only accepted by the prosecution in May, subject to Riza’s returning a portion of the money.
Following an agreement between the parties, the prosecution, led by senior DPP Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram — a former Federal Court judge — applied for a DNAA, which was granted by the Sessions Court that same day.
A number of assets belonging to Riza and fugitive financier Low Taek Jho (better known as Jho Low) have already been seized by the US Department of Justice in connection with the 1MDB probes. In September, the Department of Justice said it had reached a settlement to recover more than US$60 million, which will be retrieved from the proceeds of the sale of high-end real estate acquired by Riza in Beverly Hills and a luxury condominium in New York City as well as the sale of an investment made in a Kentucky maintenance company, a luxury London townhouse and a promotional poster for the 1927 film Metropolis.
The assets being forfeited subject to this settlement are in addition to the more than US$1 billion in assets the US had previously forfeited in connection with the Department of Justice’s 1MDB investigations, it said.
Riza is the son of the former premier’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor from her previous marriage.
Each of the five counts of money laundering under Section 4(1)(a) of the AMLA Act carries a punishment of five years in jail, a fine of not less than five times the illicit funds involved or RM5 million, whichever is higher.
Riza’s charges entail a fine of at least five times US$248 million, being the sum involved. However, under Section 92, the authorities may accept a compound fine of a sum below 50% of the maximum fine.