Malaysia

Najib’s lawyer Shafee says okay if Riza Aziz a witness in 1MDB trial, claims will help client’s case

Datuk Seri Najib Razak leaves Kuala Lumpur High Court after his 1MDB trial May 19, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Seri Najib Razak leaves Kuala Lumpur High Court after his 1MDB trial May 19, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s case in his trial over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal will not be harmed if his stepson Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz were to testify as a prosecution witness, Najib’s lawyer claimed today.

Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah claimed that Riza’s testimony may even help Najib’s position in the 1MDB trial.

“I think it’s okay by us, because if you call Riza, Riza Aziz will just tell the truth and the truth is what helped Riza Aziz’s case and the truth of Riza Aziz’s testimony will help my client’s case.

“It’s never changed, Riza Aziz has given so many statements, he can’t do a different statement. And his statement does not show he was guilty. His statement does not show Datuk Seri Najib is guilty,” Shafee told reporters after the 35th day of Najib’s trial here at the High Court.

Shafee was asked to comment on the prosecution’s notification to the court today of Riza possibly being a potential witness for the prosecution in Najib’s 1MDB trial.

Earlier today, Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram — who is the lead prosecutor in Najib’s 1MDB trial — said that the prosecution may update its witness list to include Riza as a witness, as Riza “has indicated his readiness to give evidence for the prosecution” in Najib’s 1MDB case.

Riza was last week granted a conditional release from five counts of money-laundering charges over more than US$248 million (RM1.08 billion by today’s exchange rate) of alleged 1MDB funds.

The Sessions Court had last week granted Riza the discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) upon the prosecution’s request, as the prosecution and Riza had reached an agreement for a settlement where the federal government would receive a substantial sum of millions of ringgit.

Although the settlement value was initially unspecified, Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun had said it would result in the Malaysian government’s expected recovery of around US$108 million (subject to the eventual proceeds from the sale of assets that Riza would have to give up his rights to and after deduction of associated costs) to be credited into the 1MDB Asset Recovery Trust Account.

Commenting on the settlement in Riza’s case, Shafee argued that it was a “fair deal” which would enable Riza to be left alone to live his life and be released from the case in exchange for giving up his assets and money to the government.

“It’s a very fair mechanism. The government got money...He gives the money and because it was a compound, it’s not a recorded offence against him so that he can operate as a normal human being, it’s a fair deal,” Shafee said, arguing that the representation meant that Riza is saying that he is not guilty but is returning money as he wants his life back.

While commenting on Riza, Shafee however also confirmed that he is not officially a lawyer for Riza. Riza’s lawyers are Tania Scivetti — who happens to be Shafee’s wife and also a lawyer for Najib in the 1MDB trial — and Datuk Hariharan Tara Singh.

“The two of them are officially in front but because I’m in the background, whenever advice is required I do give advice. But officially I’m not the counsel, but being a senior counsel, so they do consult me on and off,” Shafee said.

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), with each charge punishable with a maximum RM5 million fine or maximum five-year jail term or both.

Riza was accused of receiving a total of US$248,173,104 between April 2011 and November 2012, with the funds alleged to have been transferred from two Switzerland bank accounts of two companies named in the massive 1MDB financial scandal — Good Star Limited and Aabar Investments PJS Limited — to the US bank account of Red Granite Productions Inc and the Singapore bank account of Red Granite Capital Ltd.

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