KUALA LUMPUR: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) today slammed a report by Australian newspapers which alleged that the PMO was involved in a bribery scandal.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has instructed his legal counsel to take action against The Age and Sydney Morning Herald for its report, titled “Bribery scandal linked to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak”.
The July 14 article claimed that between 1999 and 2004, Malaysian officials had received bribes to secure contracts to turn the ringgit from paper notes to polymer.
In a response today, the PMO said the prime minister has totally rejected the report’s “baseless smears and insinuations.”
“This is a desperate attempt to link the work he (Najib) did when he was Deputy Prime Minister – which involved countless trade missions to promote Malaysia abroad, and meeting many thousands of people – with the alleged wrongdoings of middlemen who may have happened to have been in the same room as him at some time or another.
“The article does not contain a single direct allegation about the Prime Minister – and for good reason. There are none to be made and there is not one shred of evidence that the Prime Minister was in any way involved in the case that the courts have already made judgments on, with individuals convicted and punished,” the statement read.
The PMO said although Fairfax Media – the group which owns the two publications – were aware of the lack of evidence against Najib, it persistently attempted to mislead and imply not only his involvement, but also being the beneficiary of an alleged wrongdoing.
“Instead of providing evidence to link the Prime Minister to the case, the article relies heavily on a series of slippery, non-conclusive words – “suspected”, “alleged”, “suggesting” – to lead the reader into thinking that the Prime Minister is guilty by association.
“This is grossly defamatory, and this sly and underhand way of attempting to tarnish the Prime Minister’s name is underlined by the fact that Australian court records quoted in the article state that “none of the named persons [including Mr Najib and Mr Badawi] is a person whom the accused are alleged to have conspired to bribe,” said the statement.
The PMO questioned why Najib was linked to the allegations, as the Australian report had claimed that the prosecution case had alleged that “overseas central bank officials, rather than any ministers, were bribed between 1999 and 2004.”
The PMO also questioned why the report chose not to mention former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as some of the alleged wrongdoings took place during his tenure as prime minister.
“This is a case that has been ongoing for a long period of time, and the bribes alleged to have been paid were over the period 1999-2004, during the administrations of former Prime Ministers Tun Abdullah Badawi and Tun Mahathir Mohamad.
“Yet Fairfax Media chose not to mention Tun Mahathir anywhere in its article.
“This is despite knowing that the alleged bribes took place not during Prime Minister Najib’s tenure, but during Tun Mahathir’s; and despite Tun Mahathir being named in the suppresion order regarding the case obtained by the Australian government.
“Instead, the entire article including its headline and photos focuses on and smears Prime Minister Najib. It may not be coincidental that Fairfax Media claims to have separate information from “high-level sources”.
The PMO said it was also worth noting that an order preventing the release of information about this investigation was criminally flouted by Wikileaks.
“An Australian judge is quoted as saying that this was “a clear and deliberate breach of law”, and that the accompanying Wikileaks press release was “full of sensational, inaccurate allegations”.
“The same description could be used to characterise Fairfax Media’s article, which is deliberately misleading, malicious and defamatory. The Prime Minister has instructed his legal counsel to take all action possible against The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.”