Et tu, Riza?
The truth will set you free
Just five days after he was controversially given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) for his money laundering charges, film producer Riza Aziz was in the news again, this time for an even more surprising reason.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court was told Riza is willing to testify for the prosecution in the 1MDB criminal trial of his stepdad, former prime minister Najib Razak. Lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram (yes, the very same prosecutor in the case against Riza) told the court the prosecution would make a formal application to add Mama Rosmah Mansor’s son to the witness list, though it is unclear when this will be done.
Jibby’s lead defence counsel Shafee Abdullah, however, is unperturbed. In fact, says Shafee, the “truth” helped Riza secure conditional release and the same would happen in Najib’s case. We don’t know what Shafee’s been smoking, but who are we to argue with a such a brilliant legal mind? He also says Najib won’t ask for the case to be dropped or charges reviewed, like Riza’s own case, as daddy-o wants to go through the whole trial process to clear his name.
Now, we all know Riza was granted the DNAA on the condition a little over US$100 million of funds stolen from 1MDB (allegedly, allegedly) be returned to the federal government (in fact, RM600 million of 1MDB monies have actually already been recovered). So, isn’t that kinda like admitting the money was actually stolen from 1MDB? Certainly not sounding good for Jibster’s case.
Not so, says Shafee. He says Riza got the money through loans, and now merely wishes to return said loan to get his life back. In defending Riza, Shafee is pointing to DAP sec-gen Lim Guan Eng’s case, in which the former Penang CM benefited from the purchase of a bungalow at a much lower price and, after being charged, had his case dropped by former attorney-general Tommy Thomas.
All that aside, is testifying against stepdaddy yet another condition of Riza’s plea bargain? We don’t know as this wasn’t stated in court. So the best person to ask, of course, would be the one person involved in prosecuting both cases – Gopal Sri Ram.
Unfortunately, while everybody else and their mothers have been talking about it or making statements in the press, Sri Ram’s lips have remained as tight as an 18-inch collar around Mike Tyson’s neck.
Yet, the more he refuses to (or can’t?) speak, the longer the heat over Riza’s surprise get-out-of-jail-free card remains. Everyone supposedly in the know, from the MACC to the current AG Idrus Harun, claims the deal received the blessings of former AG Thomas. Both also allege Thomas passed on instructions to the senior deputy public prosecutor in the case – Sri Ram.
Thomas himself has repeatedly denied agreeing to such a deal. He says he merely passed the offer letter from Riza’s lawyers to Sri Ram to look into and no mention of the plea bargain was ever raised when the two legal eagles spoke after Thomas’ resignation. And that’s why former MACC head honcho Dzulkifli Ahmad was absolutely right when he said former judge Sri Ram must explain himself.
Meanwhile, in a somewhat related matter, Malaysian Bar Council president Salim Bashir is also feeling the heat over the Riza case. Several prominent lawyers, including five former Bar presidents, hammered Salim over his wishy-washy statement regarding the case. They say he “did not say much at all”, didn’t address the core of the controversial decision and was uncharacteristic of the Bar’s fearless independence. In short, they said the Bar should not make media statements when it has “nothing useful to contribute”. Ouch. We’d say his predecessors have landed a solid kick in his nuts, but it looks more like they’re implying he doesn’t have any.
The court Jibster returns
Thanks to Covid-19, it’s been a long while since our PM6 has had to sit in a courtroom dock – something we’re sure his tender backside is glad for.
Well, the trial resumed yesterday and it looks like the Jibster could be facing even more trouble almost from the get-go. The prosecution is looking to start contempt of court proceedings against Najib for a statement he made in March that he can now get a fair trial following the change of government from Pakatan to Perikatan Nasional.
Naturally, the prosecution feels this to be an insult to the court (and to themselves, probably) as it implied that poor Jibby was previously getting an unfair trial under the past gomen.
Anyway, on to the trial proper. Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, now a prosecution witness, said a joint venture between the state investment arm and PetroSaudi International (PSI) was made on the basis of the close personal relationship between Najib and the late ruler of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah. He said both parties worked hard to make the joint venture work because of this relationship, despite the fact that PSI wasn’t showing 1MDB any accounts.
Shahrol also said the 1MDB board of directors was under the “pervasive view” that they needed to be careful what they minuted at their meetings to protect Najib, who was, of course, the PM then, as these could be used for political attacks against him. He said some things which were discussed were not included in the minutes of the meetings to not give extra ammunition to Jibby’s political foes.
This came after Shahrol was asked by lead defence counsel Shafee whether the board had discussed difficulties in getting audit reports from auditing firm Ernst & Young (EY), which had reportedly refused to sign off on the deal with PSI. EY was later removed as 1MDB auditor and Shafee accused Shahrol of sacking EY to cover up wrongdoings in 1MDB, including by rogue businessman Jho Low (now that’s a name we haven’t heard in a long, long time).
Anyhoo, there were several reports on corruption trials involving other Umno members yesterday. Current president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s corruption, CBT and money laundering trial involving tens of millions of ringgit from Yayasan Akalbudi, which he himself had set up, will continue on June 15.
Meanwhile, Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan’s bid to strike out charges of money laundering and giving false statements to the MACC against him will be heard on June 19, while former sec-gen Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor’s corruption trial for allegedly accepting RM2 million “pocket money” from a businessman will start up again on June 29.
A game of musical chairmanships
From the trials of certain members of one party, we move on to the trials and tribulations of another.
The Registrar of Societies has apparently affirmed Dr Mahathir Mohamad had resigned as Bersatu chairman on Feb 24. If you remember, old man Maddey resigned from in a huff following the ‘Sheraton Move’. However, at the time, Bersatu managed to convince him to stay on as chairman.
That is until Mahathir and Muhyiddin continued to fail to see eye-to-eye on the whole Bersatu leaving Harapan matter, after which president Muhyiddin Yassin disregarded asking Dr M to stay on and took over as acting chairman.
But here’s the problem – apparently, someone ‘forgot’ to officially inform the RoS about Maddey’s change of heart! So, the resignation and Muhyiddin’s standing as acting chairman is still in force!
If this is true, then there are some major consequences. Officially, Maddey is not the chairman, meaning he doesn’t have any say in the party at all nor does he sit on its supreme council. What’s more is that Muhyiddin is now pretty much the supreme power in Bersatu as he is both president and acting chairman.
Naturally Mahathir’s allies have their noses put out of joint with all this. Bersatu supreme council member Abu Bakar Yahya has slammed the RoS and is challenging the affirmation that Maddey had resigned and Moo was acting chairman. He said the RoS had no right to make the affirmation as this was the prerogative of the supreme council acting on the recommendations of the party’s disciplinary board. He also pointed out to Maddey returning as chairman three days after resigning and winning the chairman’s post uncontested in the party elections.
Much as we’d like to tell you to move along and that these aren’t the droids you’re looking for, there’s some fishiness here. Why? Well, the RoS comes under the Home Ministry. And guess who the Home Minister is? None other than Muhyiddin ally Hamzah Zainuddin, who just so happens to be the Bersatu secretary-general as well.
Hamzah’s predecessor, ex-Bersatu sec-gen Marzuki Yahya, is brushing off the RoS letter, insisting the decision to reject Maddey’s resignation is still binding. But of course he’d say that, considering he’s a Maddey ally.
Anyway, this isn’t the only thing the Maddey and Moo camps are fighting over. There is still the matter of who actually decided to take Bersatu out of Pakatan. Supporters on each side say it was the other who did it.
Now, there’s an audio recording purportedly of Maddey saying the party should leave Pakatan “today” if that is what everyone wanted. Other voices are heard shouting that Bersatu should leave Pakatan, but Bersatu Youth chief and Maddey cheerleading squad captain Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has denied the authenticity of the clip.
Mahathir had supposedly said this during a supreme council meeting on Feb 23. Most of the top Bersatu leaders have affirmed that this was the meeting at which the decision to leave Pakatan was made. But two supreme council members took it one step further even, saying that it was Maddey who had first mooted the idea of working with Umno and PAS, we guess against Pakatan, as early as right after the last general election.
It’s a right mess, this whole brother vs brother (or is it Atok vs Pakcik?) business within Bersatu, and when you put it together with one Umno bigwig’s statement that the MoU signed for the formation of Perikatan is not binding, it’s hard not to feel there’s merit to new Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s statement yesterday that the present government won’t be able to last till the next general election.
Speaking of Anwar, there seems to be a whole lot of confusion about why he skipped a press conference with Mahathir and other Pakatan leaders following that now infamous one-day Parliament sitting. The latest excuse trotted out has been from PKR sec-gen Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, who says Anwar skipped the press conference because it was about Bersatu affairs.
But if he didn’t attend it because it was about Bersatu’s affairs, why were Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu there? Don’t these guys think their lame excuses through before trotting them out?
I am the one who knocks
With Hari Raya just around the corner, many of the Covid-19 news yesterday centred around that most major of religious festivals in the Malaysian calendar.
The first and most important of all, perhaps, is that recovered Covid-19 patients have been advised not to receive Raya visitors, or at least for 14 days after being discharged. And speaking of visits, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department has decided to ban cemetery visits for Muslims during Raya this year.
Police and the armed forces will be on patrol during the Raya period to ensure the terms of the CMCO are being kept.
More importantly, they can enter homes to investigate if SOPs are being breached, especially if they see many vehicles parked outside residences. This is a new level of potential invasiveness as there are quite specific reasons behind police being allowed to search a home without a warrant, but… Covid. 🤷
One new Covid-19 death was reported yesterday (for a total of 114), but the numbers are still low with 37 new cases nationwide, bring the total to 6,978. There were 31 recoveries reported for a total of 5,646. With those numbers, Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says the country is on target to achieving single-digit infections, even if the numbers are not decreasing as fast as the Health Ministry had hoped they would.
On another matter, Noor Hisham said the National Security Council has come up with a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the retail industry, especially with the festive season looming. And those whose heads have turned into bird nests can also take heart as the ministry is already finalising SOPs for barbers and hair salons.
Here are some other Covid-related news items that came out yesterday:
- Sabah and Penang will allow congregational prayers at mosques and suraus but have restricted the number of people attending.
- The filming industry will be allowed to resume activities after Hari Raya but of course will have to follow strict SOPs.
- Pos Malaysia, which has been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic implications, says it’s trying its darndest to prevent job and salary cuts.
- It’s not all bad news for the economy, we guess, as the government-owned MAB Kargo has seen “impressive” profits since February, thanks to the global demand for medical gloves.
“This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.”
- Oliver Wendell Holmes -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Scientists believe a new drug being developed at a lab in China is powerful enough to bring the Covid-19 pandemic to a halt, even without the use of vaccines.
- Singapore will embark on its own version of our CMCO from June 2, allowing 75% of the economy to restart.
- In the UK, the death toll has exceeded 35,000. And, with the English Premier League set to restart in the middle of next month, it was reported that six people have tested positive at three clubs, including Burnley assistant manager Ian Woan.
- Covid-19 lockdowns may bring carbon emissions down to the lowest level since World War II. The change is, however, expected to be only temporary.
- French President Emmanuel Macron’s party has lost its majority in Parliament after seven of its MPs left to form a new party. However, he still has the support of two other parties.
- Paleontologists have discovered the fossils of a new megaraptor measuring 10m in length in southern Argentina.