PETALING JAYA: It is normal practice for lawyers to act on behalf of their clients and strike a deal with the prosecution to have charges withdrawn or reduced.
Lawyer Prakash Sampunathan said plea bargaining presents the story of the accused, which may not have been completely taken into account during investigations.
“Section 172(c) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) allows the defence to enter into a plea bargain with the prosecution and the prosecution has the right to consider to amend or withdraw the charge,” he said.
He was responding to news that film producer Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal by the sessions court here over five counts of money laundering involving US$248 million (RM1.07 billion) linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Prakash said the attorney-general acting under Article 145 of the Federal Constitution, and also the public prosecutor acting under section 376 of the CPC, can withdraw a charge after considering the facts of the case.
“The prosecution may decline to prosecute further at any time after the case was presented in court. However, this is a discharge not amounting to an acquittal. If the accused is not able to perform (any) part of his bargain, he may be charged in court again.”
Meanwhile, Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir Bhaskara said the charges against Riza, the stepson of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, was framed purely on the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLA) without any predicated offences.
“Section 92 of AMLA provides for the matter to be compounded by the authorities with the consent of the public prosecutor, and the process that sets the chains in motion from the time of representation until the agreement,” he said.
“The mechanics of it is also partly similar to a ‘Prosecution Deferred Agreement’, which is used in the United Kingdom for financial crime or corporate fraud matters. However, not all matters can be compoundable or plea bargained under the law,” Salim added.