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KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — Dow Jones & Company has told lawyers acting for Datuk Seri Najib Razak that there was no need for them to ask if Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had meant to accuse the Malaysian prime minister of misappropriating funds as the business daily’s reports provide a clear answer to their questions.
In its reply to Najib’s lawyers signed off by Dow Jones’ counsel and chief compliance officer Jason P. Conti, the US publisher that owns WSJ said that the two articles in question— a July 2 news report titled “Malaysia leader’s accounts probed” and an opinion piece on July 6 titled “Scandal in Malaysia” - were based on available facts.
“In your letter you ‘seek confirmation as to whether it is [our] position as taken in [The News Article and The Opinion] that [your] Client misappropriated nearly USD700 million belonging to 1Malaysia Development Berhad’,” Conti wrote in his reply for Dow Jones, referring to the July 8 request for confirmation from Najib’s lawyers in Hafarizam Wan & Aisha Mubarak Advocates & Solicitors.
“We believe your request is unnecessary as The News Article and The Opinion speak for themselves,” he added in the letter that was emailed to Malay Mail Online today.
Conti also urged Najib’s lawyers to explain to their client the difference between the two articles they had highlighted, pointing out that the July 2 piece is a news article, which means it is a report on facts, while the July 6 article is a commentary on facts that have emerged in the course of unfolding events.
Explaining further, Conti noted that the July 2 article had also expressly mentioned that the original source of the funds was unclear and that the money trail did not show how the funds were spent.
WSJ in the July 2 article, reported Malaysian investigators had traced nearly US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) of deposits into what is believed to be Najib’s personal bank accounts.
The July 6 opinion piece, on the other hand, had been based on the facts available and presented in the July 2 article, the lawyer said.
“As a result, it is quite clear The News Article is a fair and accurate summary of current events, and The Opinion includes reasonable commentary based on those facts.
“Any suggestion otherwise is misplaced and baseless,” Conti said.
The Dow Jones lawyer also confirmed that the firm has yet to appoint its legal representatives in Malaysia to deal with the matter, telling Najib’s lawyers that there was no need to do so as they have yet to identify any cause of action against WSJ.
“If and when you do so, we will consider the appointment of appropriate solicitors in Malaysia,” Conti wrote before referring Najib’s lawyers to a representative in Singapore who he said advises Dow Jones on international matters.
Instead of the usual letter of demand, Najib’s lawyers had on July 8 written to WSJ’s publisher Dow Jones, giving the firm a 14-day deadline to confirm if the two articles had meant to accuse their client of misappropriating US$700 million (RM2.6 billion).
When defending the unusual move, Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Wan Harun, one of the prime minister’s lawyers, conceded that his firm could have immediately accused WSJ of defamation but chose not to because the offending articles were “neither here nor there”, thus making the letter seeking clarification necessary.
Dow Jones’ reply was sent on Tuesday, exactly 14 days from July 8. Najib’s lawyers have since remained silent on the matter and are believed to be mulling over the prime minister’s next step.
After WSJ’s July 2 bombshell, Najib immediately responded by saying that he has never taken 1MDB money for “personal gain”.
The embattled prime minister also categorised the allegations as “political sabotage” and accused his former mentor-turned-chief critic Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad of colluding with foreign media to unseat him.
A special taskforce — comprising Bank Negara Malaysia, the Royal Malaysian Police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Attorney-General’s Chambers — are currently investigating 1MDB and the claims in the WSJ report.