ABC show on Najib slammed as a vendetta and a Mahathir ruse

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.PHOTO: REUTERS

Malaysia has rubbished allegations made in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) programme this week tying Prime Minister Najib Razak to several murders, with the national police chief calling the reporting "vengeful".

Two ABC journalists were arrested in Sarawak earlier this month after they tried to question Mr Najib over corruption allegations. They were deported four days later on March 15. The Australian government had expressed concern over the arrests.

ABC's investigative journalism programme, Four Corners, on Monday aired State Of Fear: Murder And Money In Malaysia, which has since gone viral on social media.

Yesterday, the Malaysian government affirmed that a controversial sum of money banked into Datuk Seri Najib's personal accounts came from foreign donors.

"The Four Corners report confirms what the Prime Minister has maintained all along, and what multiple lawful authorities concluded after exhaustive investigations: the funds were a donation from the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia," the government said in a statement.

The programme also showed a document purported to be a letter from the late Saudi King Abdullah detailing a gift of US$375 million (S$507 million) to be used as Mr Najib saw fit.

The donation was a gift to the Prime Minister for promoting moderate Islam, and his leadership in combating terrorism and extremism, the statement added.

Malaysia does not have any laws against political donations, but Mr Najib set up a committee last August to propose reforms following a public backlash over reports by the Wall Street Journal that a mysterious sum of US$681 million was deposited into his accounts just before the 2013 general election.

The documentary also alluded to Mr Najib's links with the murders of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu, public prosecutor Kevin Morais and AmBank founder Hussain Najadi.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar yesterday slammed the programme. "Their journalists have a vendetta against the country's leader after they were detained in Sarawak," Tan Sri Khalid was quoted as saying by The Star daily.

Communications Minister Salleh Keruak said the allegations were an attempt by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former prime minister and Mr Najib's harshest critic, to use the Western media as part of an anti-Najib campaign.

"Unfortunately, the journalists accepted the narrative they were presented hook, line and sinker," Datuk Seri Salleh said in a statement. "There is no attempt at balance, and no proof provided to justify the wild claims."

Mr Najib's leadership has come under intense scrutiny over two financial scandals since last year: alleged mismanagement of indebted state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd and the funds in his private accounts. In January, the Attorney- General cleared him of corruption over the US$681 million.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'ABC show on Najib slammed as a vendetta and a Mahathir ruse'. Print Edition | Subscribe