Image source: Choo Choy May/ Malay Mail
As I have been mentioned on numerous occasions in the media release issued yesterday by my successor, Tan Sri Idrus bin Harun, I have to put the record straight a second time.
I took into account the benefits of the AMLA Act 2001 when I decided to charge Riza Aziz in July 2019 with 5 money laundering offences punishable under Section 4(1) of that Act for receiving proceeds of unlawful activities, between April 2011 and November 2012, totalling USD248 million of monies belonging to 1MDB. I was satisfied that the prosecution had a very strong case to establish the ingredients of the offences. The documentary trail was substantial and highly credible. Upon conviction, the prosecution would have invited the trial judge to impose a sentence commensurate with the severity of the offences, the maximum being 15 years for each charge. But more significantly, the criminal court is given power by Parliament to additionally impose a penalty up to 5 times the amount involved in the unlawful activities, that is 5 times USD248 million, which would work out to some USD1.2 billion. We would have sought this sum upon his conviction.
As Public Prosecutor, I personally decided to prosecute about 25 cases. In each of these cases, I was briefed by MACC or the police and DPPs. I probed deeply. My decision-making process took time. From my trial experience, evidence gathering continues from initiation of proceedings until completion of trial. Only when I was satisfied that the prosecution could secure a conviction, did I make the decision to prosecute. It was always a deliberate and properly analysed decision. That same rigour was brought to the decision to prosecute Riza. In none of these 25 odd cases, did I consider favourably a request by any accused to settle on such terribly poor terms to the prosecution. That would have called into question the wisdom and integrity of my decision to prosecute in the first place.
In paragraph 2 of Tan Sri Idrus’s media release, reference is made to a minute I made on 19 November 2019 to Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram on the letter dated 18 November 2019 from Riza’s solicitors. That indeed was my style. After having read that letter, I wrote a couple of words or sentences to him. I have no access to the original letter with my handwriting. Because of this handicap, I cannot comment on it.
What is abundantly clear is that I did not make any decision in relation to Riza’s representation up to the date of my resignation, 28 February 2020. A decision of this importance involving billions of ringgit and significant public interest would be made by me in writing. I did not, and none exist.
With regard to communications with the 2 major actors, my successor and Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, the position is as follows. I have not communicated with Tan Sri Idrus since 28 February 2020. This is not unusual. I did not communicate with my predecessor during my tenure. I spoke on a couple of occasions with Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram over the telephone between 28 February and 14 May 2020, but this subject was never raised by him. Hence after my resignation, I was kept in the dark on this and all other matters.
In Paragraph 3 of the media release, Tan Sri Idrus states that “Malaysia is expected to recover approximately USD108 million”. With the greatest of respect, this is a red herring. By personal diplomacy, we established strong relations with DOJ after I took office. They have returned billions of ringgit, and more monies may be released in future by DOJ. The purpose of prosecuting Riza was not to strengthen our chances of securing monies from DOJ. DOJ would have returned these monies in any event because it belongs to Malaysia and was stolen from Malaysia. Riza is not offering to pay any new money or monies from any source other than DOJ seized assets. The USD108 million, would in any event be returned by DOJ to Malaysia. Thus, Riza is unnecessarily getting credit for returning monies that are not his. Hence, it is a sweetheart deal for Riza but terrible for Malaysia.
Finally, even the timing of Riza’s DNAA is bizarre. In both civil and criminal proceedings which proceed to trial, a plaintiff or the prosecution loses substantial leverage over the adverse party if it withdraws court proceeding before the terms of settlement are completely performed. This is elementary. Hence, one needs to question why Riza has been given a DNAA so prematurely.
Since Tan Sri Idrus is at pains to emphasize the weight he gave to my so called ‘agreement in principle’ (which itself is a fiction), let me state publicly that I would have never sanctioned this deal. I would have lost all credibility in the eyes of the people of Malaysia whom I endeavoured to serve as public prosecutor to the best of my ability, honestly and professionally if I had approved it. I would have betrayed the trust the Prime Minister and the PH government had reposed in me.
Tan Sri Tommy Thomas
18 May 2020