For our main story today, we take a look at the curious case of Riza Aziz's discharge from his money laundering case. Ex-AG Tommy Thomas is catching flak for Riza being let off the hook. Thing is, he was no longer A-G when the decision to drop the charges against Jibby Razak’s stepson was made! In other news, Mukhriz Mahathir finally exits the Kedah Menteri Besar's office, Perikatan Nasional’s top six ink an MoU, and the Health Ministry worries that interstate travel may see Covid-19 infection rates spike.

Bang and blame

Who's fault is it anyway?

It’s been more than three days since Riza Aziz, the stepson of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, was handed his Get Out of Jail Free card, and we’re still no closer to understanding just how the hell the charges against him got dropped.

 

To briefly recap, Riza was originally charged last July with five counts of money laundering involving a total of US$248 million (RM1.03 billion) of 1Malaysia Development Berhad cash. Last week, however, the producer of such celluloid classics as Dumb and Dumber To and Daddy’s Home was let off the hook on condition that he returns about US$107.3 million (RM465.3 million) in foreign assets. 

 

The deal was agreed between the prosecution and Riza’s peeps. However, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission insisted ex-Attorney-General Tommy Thomas had actually been the one behind it. This despite TT disputing his involvement, not once, but twice!

 

To be honest, it’s a right mess, and with so much back and forth and everyone claiming this, that and the other, it’s hard to know what to believe. Even so, what you should know is Tommy T’s most recent statement on the matter contains a detailed timeline of events which contends that the former A-G made only made two decisions in the case – one, to charge Riza, and two, to appoint former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram to lead the prosecution team.

 

Tommy says that yes, a request for a settlement had been made by Riza’s lawyers in November last year. And yup, he knew all about it. However, the letter containing the request was passed on to Sri Ram to be studied, and until the day TT left office in late February 2020, the lead prosecutor had uttered not one thing about it.

 

Regardless of Tommy’s stand, current A-G Idrus Harun claims he was told his predecessor had agreed to the settlement “in principle”. And not just that, he says TT agreed to it after Sri Ram, following consultation with ex-MACC boss Latheefa Koya, had suggested the anti-graft body accept what Riza’s lawyers were proposing.

 

Here’s our problem with Idrus’ statement though – it doesn’t matter whether Tommy agreed in or out of principle to the deal. The decision to drop the charges against Riza was made by Idrus alone in his capacity as the government’s top lawyer. What Tommy did or did not do is of no consequence. He had no power when the decision was made. Idrus did. And it’s not just us saying that, mind you. These senior lawyers think so too.

 

Yes, one can claim Idrus wasn’t familiar with the details of the case, had just been appointed to the post and may well have been swayed by the advice he received. Fact is, though, power “to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence”, as stated in Article 145 (3) of the Federal Constitution, is conferred on a sitting A-G alone. And Tommy, at the time the decision to let Riza off scot-free was made, had long left the building.

 

Incidentally, Gopal Sri Ram has chosen to keep mum on the whole affair, insisting the A-G has already had the final word on the matter.

Two people who haven’t been keeping mum, though, are Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Riza’s daddy-o, Jibby Razak. Mahathir has pointed out what pretty much every Malaysian outside the Razak family (and Umno, probably) has been saying – that by this logic, a person could steal billions and get away as long as they returned the money. 

Jibby, of course, has leapt to sonny boy’s defence, and boy is it the Jibster at his disingenuous best. Claiming Riza’s movies have been immensely successful, he’s parroting the line that it was Gopal and Tommy who initiated proceedings to let Riza off. He’s also questioning why criminal charges were brought against Riza since none of the transactions happened in Malaysia (errr, perhaps it could be because the money he used was stolen from Malaysia, Jibby?)

Best of all, Jibby reeled off a list of multi-billion ringgit projects and contracts that had gone to Maddey’s children, implying (probably correctly?), that these were sweetheart deals they got by virtue of the fact their old man was running the country at the time. The thing is this though… you yourself was PM for 9 YEARS, Jibby. If this shit was dodgy, why did you do nothing about it for almost a decade?

Anyway, this back and forth and he says/he says business is entertaining but pointless. At the end of the day, only one thing is for sure: Riza Aziz has ridden off into the sunset with RM610 million of our money. 

Mukhriz's long goodbye

After almost a week of uncertainty, Mukhriz Mahathir has vacated the Kedah Menteri Besar seat for the second time in his career. And just like in 2016, he maintains that Jibby Razak is behind his removal.

 

That’s right, folks. The twice-toppled MB did list his decision to challenge Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for the post of Bersatu prez in the impending party polls, as well as Daddy-O Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s parliamentary motion of no confidence against Moo as reasons for this latest ouster. However, Jib, it seems, is actually the one orchestrating everything from behind the scenes simply ’cos he wants to escape the scandals that’ve tainted his reputation.

 

Unfortunately, as juicy as that little swipe is and though it may be tempting to imagine Jibby in Dr Evil mode, munching on quinoa and/or Super Rings and plotting Maddey Jr.’s downfall, Mukhriz’s allegation didn’t come with evidence attached. So yeah, caution advised.

Whatever it is, the only certainty is that the people of Kedah are the ones that seem to have got the short end of the stick. They’ve gone from the guy who couldn’t lift them from being the second-poorest state in the country, by per capita GDP, to the fellers who have the dubious honour of running the poorest state in the country!

 

Anyway, Mukhriz also claimed he’d been assured by the state PAS leadership, following Pakatan Harapan’s loss of federal power, that the party would back him to stay on as MB for a full term. However, it seems that promise went out the window as soon as six former Pakatan assemblymen pledged their support for Perikatan Nasional.

 

PAS’ Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, who became the 14th Kedah MB on Sunday, nevertheless, denies his party went back on any promise to support Mukhriz, adding all assurances given before were only made to avoid a political crisis. 

 

It’s a whole lotta claims and counterclaims, for sure. But though the exchanges are mildly amusing, it is bloody pissing off when you realise what we’re actually being treated to isn’t just sniping, or even one MB being replaced by another, but politicians making an utter mockery of our election process. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – Malaysia needs anti-party hopping laws. Otherwise, shit like this will keep happening and we’ll have to listen to the same nonsense.

 

P.S. A couple of hours after Perikatan officially took control of Kedah, its leaders signed a memorandum of understanding reiterating their support of the alliance. The MoU – signed by PM Moo for Bersatu, Barisan Nasional chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, PAS’ numero uno Abdul Hadi Awang, GPS leader Abang Johari Openg, Parti Bersatu Sabah president Maximus Johnity Ongkili and Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Jeffrey Kitingan – lists a number of objectives, including ensuring “good, inclusive and world-class” governance at the federal and state level. Naturally, no mention was made of party-hopping. 🤮

Interstate stupidity

Once more the number of Covid-19 daily recoveries has trumped the number of infections (read: 59 to 22). However, despite the positives, which include a total recovery rate of about 80% or 5,571 people discharged and only 113 deaths, news that a significant portion of the infections to date are linked to interstate travel is surely cause for concern.

 

In fact, Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says what’s even more troubling is that a number of these cases occurred while the Movement Control Order (MCO) was in force. Meaning despite strict restrictions in place, a whole bunch of people still managed to get past the roadblocks and pass on the virus to friends, family and acquaintances. Worst of all, now that a lot of the original curbs have been eased and Hari Raya Aidilfitri is just a week away, more idiots seem determined to join the party and contribute to a spike in infections.

 

On Friday, for example, 508 vehicles were ordered to turn back for attempting to cross state borders, while on Saturday more than double that – 1,248 vehicles – were stopped for the same reason. Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob says the motorists had all been attempting to balik kampung for the upcoming festivities, despite the government having already barred such travel.

 

So far, no fines have been issued with offenders merely ordered to return home. However, violators have been warned that compounds could soon be issued, with prosecution under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 a possibility. No word on whether anybody would be eligible for a 20% BintiAhmadZahid discount

 

Meanwhile, even though the government has given Raya visiting the go-ahead, one man thinks folks would be better off staying at home this Aidilfitri. That’s right, everyone’s favourite Health D-G, in apparently yet another attempt to clean up the mess made by his bosses, is advising people to stay home during the celebrations and not open their doors to visitors. Good advice, Doc. Question is, who’s gonna listen to you when the PM and his merry morons have already said okay to home visits?  

 

Anyhow, here’re some other important Covid-19 related updates from the weekend:

  • More undocumented migrants have been picked up in a raid at an area under an Enhanced Movement Control Order. As many as 113 people, including 11 children, were nabbed in the raid Selayang Baru, authorities confirm. Seriously, is our priority right now health and safety or weeding out illegal immigrants? It’s hard to tell anymore.
     
  • Speaking of EMCOs, it seems that Jalan Pudu, which was cordoned off on Friday, has not been placed under enhanced movement control, which means residents are free to move about. Regardless of what the authorities say, though, a representative of Myanmar’s Chin people, who live in the area, says folks from his community are worried that they too will be rounded up and deported soon.
     
  • Wanna know why you should keep your kids away from malls and such? Simple. It’s ’cos while no kid deaths have as yet been reported here, children below the age of 12 are extremely vulnerable to the disease. There’s also a risk of infected kids developing Kawasaki syndrome, a disorder that causes blood vessels to become inflamed.
     
  • Standard operating procedures for reopening non-Muslim places of worship will be finalised today. A discussion on the matter was held between the government and reps from the Christian Federation of Malaysia and the Malaysian Buddhist Association, among others.

Remaining dangly bits

A few non-coronavirus related bits and bobs also managed to make the news over the weekend, and here’re some of the more significant ones in brief:

  • Parliament is set to meet today. However, only the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s opening address is on the agenda. Meanwhile, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof says seating arrangements for all 222 members have been settled. Two MPs, however, may not be in attendance today as they’re currently in quarantine after coming into contact with Covid-19 patients.
     
  • Former Melaka Chief Minister Mohd Ali Rustam is apparently set to become the state’s governor. The current governor, Dr Mohd Khalil Yaakob, in office since 2004, is expected to end his tenure in June. 
     
  • The Election Commission has set July 4 for the Chini state by-election with nomination scheduled for June 20. The Pahang state seat fell vacant following the death of Barisan Nasional assemblyman Abu Bakar Harun on May 6. Abu Bakar defeated PAS’ Mohd Fadhil Noor Abdul Karim by a majority of 4,622 votes in the 2018 General Election.
     
  • An aide to former Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad has been detained in connection with a bribery allegation. It’s understood that Khalid and his former deputy will soon be called in for questioning.
     
  • British supermarket chain Tesco claims to have found instances of abuse against migrant workers at stores in Malaysia. The company says it conducted interviews with 168 migrant workers in Malaysia who allege abuses such as unlawful retention of passports and illegal pay cuts.

“Guilt and innocence is a matter of timing.”

- Rico Dredd -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • China’s ambassador to Israel, Du Wei, was found dead in his residence near Tel Aviv on Sunday. Israeli authorities say, however, that there’s nothing suspicious about the 57-year-old’s death. 
     
  • Russia has become the country with the second-most number of Covid-19 cases, with 281,752 infections at last count. The pandemic is now sweeping through not just the country cities, but even its remotest regions as well.
     
  • Former United States president Barack Obama has finally hit out at successor Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Kinda. In a leaked call with former members of his administration, Barry labelled The Donald’s response to the pandemic as an “absolute chaotic disaster”. We would’ve no doubt chosen stronger, more explicit words, but whatevs.
     
  • The German Bundesliga resumed over the weekend behind closed doors. The league, which was suspended on 13 March, is the first major European football league to restart following coronavirus-related lockdowns all over Europe.
     
  • Did you ever wonder what gender Covid-19 is in French? Well, according to French language experts who take these things very seriously, covid is feminine. Don’t ask us to explain though. We’re still trying to wrap our heads around why clearly genderless things need to be either male and female in French.

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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