Friday, May 15, 2020

Dr M: Will thieves who steal billions get off scot-free in future just by returning money? (VIDEO)

KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today expressed concern if thieves who steal billions of funds would be able to free themselves of criminal charges just by offering to return the stolen money and said the country’s laws should be changed to prevent this from happening.

Dr Mahathir, who is a former prime minister who had heavily campaigned against corruption in his latest stint, said he was confused over what the recent developments in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s stepson Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz’s US$248 million money-laundering case meant for the country.

Dr Mahathir was referring to the Sessions Court’s granting yesterday of an order for discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) to Riza, following an application by the prosecution for the conditional discharge as prosecutors had struck an agreement with Riza who agreed to pay back millions in ringgit to the government.

Dr Mahathir, who confessed to not being an expert in law, questioned if this meant that thieves would get away by giving back the money stolen.

“So would it be in the future, if there is a thief, he steals money, and then he gets caught, is brought to court, he says ‘never mind, the money that I stolen, I give back’. It can’t be that we say ‘ok, oklah’, we take the money, he is released?” he asked in a 5.08-minute-long video clip posted on his official Facebook page.

“I am not questioning the judge’s decision, definitely it follows the law, but I am concerned because there are many more thieves in this country of ours, if we hold on to this principle, thieves will get away.

“He steals billions, then he brings with a lorry, he brings billions, he gives it back to the government, he says to the government ‘nah, this is the money that I stole, now don’t take action against me’, and we say ‘nevermind lah, already given back, oklah’,” he said, expressing discomfort over the possibility of a “biggest criminal” who allegedly stole a lot of funds getting away in the future just by returning the funds.

Dr Mahathir did not name anyone when speaking of his concern over future cases.

Dr Mahathir took great pains to explain that he was not questioning the court’s powers to make decisions, but said he was merely expressing his views in response to public queries to him on the matter.

“I’m afraid that if I speak like this, I will be cited for contempt of court, brought to court. I apologise, I apologise to the judges, it is not my intention to criticise judges, if it is in the law that it was done so, that is how it is, that’s all that I can say,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said that there might instead be a need to change the country’s laws via Parliament if there was any such law allowing thieves to escape legal action by returning the stolen funds, but said he did not recall such a law.

Dr Mahathir’s video clip comes after the conditional discharge of Riza yesterday following the latter’s agreement with the prosecution. The agreement was said to have been reached following Riza’s lawyers’ representation to the Attorney General’s Chambers to review his charges.

Komen Mengenai Riza Aziz Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad

Criminal lawyer Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu — who was not involved in Riza’s case — today explained to Malay Mail that there was “nothing wrong” with an accused making a representation to the prosecutors or engaging in a “plea bargaining process”.

“All jurisdictions in the entire world exercise this. At the end of the day, it is a win-win situation for both parties and saves the court time,” Baljit told Malay Mail, alluding to the typically long trial process.

Trial for Riza had yet to start, as it was previously pending the AGC’s decision on his representation.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) yesterday said the Malaysian government is expected to recover an estimated US$107.3 million (RM465.3 million) worth of overseas assets involved in the money-laundering charges as a result of the agreement, with the agreement also requiring Riza to pay a compound to the government as an alternative to the charges.

On July 5, 2019, Riza — who is also co-founder of the Hollywood production house Red Granite Pictures and son of Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor — was charged with five counts of money-laundering under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 (AMLATFA).

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