The High Court today dismissed the application by Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz to transfer his money laundering charges involving US$248 million (RM1.25 billion) from the Sessions Court to the High Court.
Riza, who is the stepson of former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, had allegedly misappropriated the sum from 1MDB.
Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali ruled that Sessions Court judges were competent to hear such cases.
“Sessions Court judges, including the judge in the case against the applicant, are no less competent and very experienced to try such charges, and able to deal with other possible issues concerning the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 2002, Evidence Act 1950 and the Federal Constitution,” he said.
He said charges under Section 4(1) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 (Amlatfa) were regularly tried at the Sessions Courts not just in Kuala Lumpur but also in other parts of the country.
To be able to succeed under Section 417(1)(b), the applicant must show that the question of law was truly and exceptionally difficult, asserted the judge.
“There are no concerns about the principle of equality before the law since the real issue is the need to comply with the pre-requisites of Section 417 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) that must be established first,” he said.
He added that the difference in the forum of the trial did not cause any prejudice to the applicant.
In any event, Nazlan said, it was not expedient in the ends of justice if a transfer did not promote judicial efficiency and caused a delay in the commencement of trials.
In this case, trial dates had already been fixed by the Sessions Court to start in January 2020, he noted.
He dismissed Riza’s application after hearing submissions by the accused’s lawyer Hariharan Tara Singh and former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram who was appointed as senior deputy public prosecutor in the case.
Earlier, Hariharan submitted among others that the case involved complex legal questions and issues relating to 1MDB.
“On July 5, the applicant was charged with five charges under Section 4(1)(a) of the Amlatfa. He was alleged to have received unlawful proceeds derived from misappropriation of 1MDB funds and all the alleged offences occurred outside Malaysia.
“In the circumstances, if all other related 1MDB cases are transferred to the High Court, why not this,” he argued.
Sri Ram (above) objected to the application, countering that the points raised by the defence could be equally dealt with by the Sessions Court.
“She has over 10 years of experience and a senior judge for sessions court," he noted.
On Aug 9, Sessions Court Judge Rozina Ayob set Jan 6 to 9 and Jan 13 to 16 for the trial.
On July 5, Riza, 42, owner of Red Granite Pictures and producer of the movie, "Wolf of Wall Street", pleaded not guilty to five charges.
On the first charge, he stands accused of involvement in illicit transactions amounting to US$1,173,104 between an account, 11116073, belonging to Good Star Limited at RBS Coutts, Switzerland and account number 123248291 at City National Bank, Los Angeles, USA belonging to Red Granite Productions Inc.
The money was allegedly misappropriated from IMDB funds between April 12 and May 12 at City National Bank, Los Angeles Main, 525 South Flower Street, Los Angeles, California, USA.
On the second charge, Riza, who is the son of Rosmah Mansor from a previous marriage, allegedly committed a similar offence involving US$9 million on Sept 10, 2012, and Oct 10, 2012, at the same place.
On the third and fourth charge respectively, he is accused of the same offence involving US$133 million and US$60 million in money transfers from account number 81134378 belonging to Aabar Investment PJS Limited, at BSI SA, Lugano, Switzerland, to account number 6C02250A at BSI Bank Limited, Singapore belonging to Red Granite Capital Ltd.
He allegedly committed the offences at BSI Ltd, 7 Temasek Boulevard, #32-01 Suntec Tower One, Singapore on June 18, 2012, and Oct 23, 2012.
On the fifth charge, Riza allegedly committed the same offence amounting to US$45 million at the same place on Nov 14, 2012.
The charges are framed under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001, which carries a fine not exceeding RM5 million or imprisonment not exceeding five years, or both, upon conviction.