PM to initiate defamation lawsuit against The Age, SMH over link to bribery report

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has instructed his legal counsel to take all action possible against Australian dailies The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. ― File pic
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has instructed his legal counsel to take all action possible against Australian dailies The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. ― File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 ― Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has ordered his lawyers to initiate court action against two Australian dailies that had published reports linking him to a corruption scandal involving the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

In a statement on its Facebook page today, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) declared that the articles published by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) owned by Australia’s Fairfax Media group were “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. This is grossly defamatory, and this sly and underhand way of attempting to tarnish the Prime Minister’s name,” PMO said in the statement.

The two Australian papers have published several news reports critical of Najib, linking the Malaysian leader to allegations of public fund embezzlement in order to bankroll election campaigns.

In its statement today, PMO pointed out that the reports in the two dailies were not substantiated by documentary evidence but instead contained nuances intended to tarnish Najib’s reputation.

“Their article persistently attempts to mislead and imply not only that he had some involvement, but that he also might have been a beneficiary of any alleged wrongdoing.

“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,” it said.

PMO also highlighted the newspapers had failed to mention Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the deals, pointing out that most of the alleged bribery deals happened during the 90-year-old’s tenure as prime minister between 1981 and 2003.

“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,” PMO said.

It suggested that the it might not be “coincidental” that Dr Mahathir’s name was absent from the reports after the Australian media obtained information from “high-level sources” which sought to tarnish Najib’s name.

The Age both claimed Putrajaya has been hindering requests for information by Australian investigators probing a corruption case that implicates two Malaysian prime ministers.

According to the Australian news outlet, Canberra officials believe that their Malaysian counterparts possess information that links Najib and his predecessor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, to their investigations into two Australian firms suspected of using bribery to secure currency-note printing jobs.

Last month, The Age published reports alleging that MARA Inc officials engaged in corruption in the Malaysian firm’s purchase of property in Melbourne.

Separately, US-based daily Wall Street Journal (WSJ) also published an exposé purporting that US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) from state-owned 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) ended up in personal bank accounts belonging to Najib.

Najib has denied taking money for personal gain and categorised the allegations as “political sabotage”.

Lawyers for the prime minister however, have said they have not been instructed to initiate any legal action against WSJ yet and have only sent a letter to its publisher Dow Jones, requesting clarification on its articles.

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