Banknote-printing case: Najib plans to sue 2 Aussie papers

Mr Najib Razak has dismissed reports implicating him in a graft case as "baseless smears".
Mr Najib Razak has dismissed reports implicating him in a graft case as "baseless smears".

Prime Minister Najib Razak intends to sue two Australian newspapers over their reports on Tuesday implicating him in a banknote-printing corruption case when he was deputy prime minister.

In a statement yesterday, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said Datuk Seri Najib has dismissed "the baseless smears and insinuations" in the report published by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

He has also instructed his lawyers "to take all action possible" against the dailies owned by the Fairfax Media group.

The report said Malaysia did not respond to requests for information from Australia regarding the case involving Securency International and Note Printing Australia, subsidiaries of Australia's central bank.

The firms allegedly offered bribes to officials in foreign countries, including Malaysia, in return for securing banknote-printing contracts.

It claimed senior Australian officials are aware of intelligence that implicates people in the offices of Mr Najib and his predecessor Abdullah Badawi in the case.

It did not say when Canberra had asked Putrajaya for the information.

Calling the report "grossly defamatory", the PMO statement said it was "a desperate attempt to link the work he (Najib) did when he was deputy prime minister... with the alleged wrongdoings of middlemen".

"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 added.

"Fairfax Media knows this, yet 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 statement also noted that the bribery case in court concerns the period between 1999 and 2004, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and, after him, Tun Abdullah were prime minister.

"Yet Fairfax Media chose not to mention Tun Mahathir anywhere in its article," it said.

"Instead, the entire article... 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 report claimed Malaysian officials allegedly received bribes in return for awarding contracts to Securency International and Note Printing Australia to print polymer instead of paper Malaysian ringgit notes between 1999 and 2009.

It also said "no overseas politicians have been charged or formally accused of conspiring to receive bribes, with the (Australian) prosecution case restricted to allegations that overseas central bank officials, rather than any ministers, were bribed between 1999 and 2004".

Dr Mahathir has, in the past few months, been leading calls for Mr Najib to resign over allegations of abuse of public funds linked to debt-stricken state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad, whose chief adviser is Mr Najib.

SEE ASIA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2015, with the headline 'Banknote-printing case: Najib plans to sue 2 Aussie papers'. Print Edition | Subscribe