KUALA LUMPUR - The Prime Minister's Office has dismissed the article "Bribery scandal linked to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak" published in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald as "baseless smears and insinuations".
It said the article on July 14 did not contain a single direct allegation about Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, adding that this was because there was none to be made.
In a statement issued yesterday, the PMO described the article as a desperate attempt to link Najib's work as then Deputy Prime Minister with the alleged wrongdoings of middlemen.
The following is the PMO's full statement:
1. The Prime Minister totally rejects the baseless smears and insinuations carried in an article "Bribery scandal linked to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak", published in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, papers owned by Australia's Fairfax Media group, on July 14.
2. This is a desperate attempt to link the work he 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 be in the same room as him at some time or another.
3. 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.
4. Fairfax Media knows this, yet its 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.
5. 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.
6. This is grossly defamatory, and this sly and underhanded 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."
7. The article also states: "No overseas politicians have been charged or formally accused of conspiring to receive bribes, with the prosecution case restricted to allegations that overseas central bank officials, rather than any minister, were bribed between 1999 and 2004."
8. What then does the Prime Minister have to do with the case?
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.
9. Yet Fairfax Media chose not to mention Tun Mahathir anywhere in its article.
10. This is despite knowing that the alleged bribe took place not during Prime Minister Najib's tenure, but during Tun Mahathir's; and despite Tun Mahathir being named in the suppression 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."
11. It is 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".
12. 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.