Najib may take legal action against WSJ

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks to reporters at a mosque outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 5, 2015.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks to reporters at a mosque outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 5, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday rubbished the idea that he would have used a local bank to embezzle public funds as claimed by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and said he is still mulling over legal action against the financial newspaper.

Datuk Seri Najib has been under pressure to deny either the existence of accounts under his personal name in AmBank - Malaysia's fifth-largest lender - or the deposits amounting to US$700 million (S$940 million) allegedly wired into them over the past two years.

"Even if I wanted to steal, surely I would not have kept the money in a Malaysian account.

"As the Prime Minister, I will never betray the Malaysian public," he told reporters at a breaking-of-fast event in Semenyih, a town south- east of Kuala Lumpur.

He did not clarify if he owned the accounts in AmBank as outlined by the WSJ, or had received the funds as published in the newspaper's Friday edition.

Mr Najib has been urged by his party leaders, including Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Malaysia's deputy prime minister, to sue the WSJ to clear his name and restore the credibility of his government.

Mr Najib said yesterday he was still consulting his lawyers on what action he could take in Malaysia and overseas.

"I will decide in a few days what further action I will take against the malicious allegations," he said to reporters without taking questions.

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday that the allegations against a serving Malaysian prime minister are "irresponsible and reckless journalism and bordering on criminal offence".

With the beleaguered Umno president not addressing the existence of the accounts, eyes have been trained instead on Malaysia's widely respected central bank and AmBank to either confirm or deny claims that Mr Najib received the money linked to troubled state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The authorities on Friday raided three companies allegedly linked to several deposits made into the AmBank accounts.

The Prime Minister has been under attack from former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad for nearly a year, with calls for Mr Najib to step down.

Mr Najib in turn has accused Tun Dr Mahathir of working with "foreign nationals" to smear him.

Shannon Teoh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2015, with the headline 'Najib may take legal action against WSJ'. Print Edition | Subscribe