Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and three other parties have been told to file their defences over alleged overspending during the campaign for the 2013 General Election.
The High Court yesterday told Datuk Seri Najib, Barisan Nasional secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the Election Commission (EC) to file their defences in response to a suit by the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
Mr Najib must file his defence by Oct 1; Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan has been given until Sept 15; 1MDB and EC have till Sept 14.
The plaintiffs in the civil suit filed last month are jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, PKR vice-president Tian Chua, former PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Gerakan Harapan Baru member Dzulkefly Ahmad.
Section 19 of the Election Offences Act limits electoral spending to RM100,000 (S$33,460) for a state candidate and RM200,000 for a parliamentary candidate.
PKR filed the suit following The Wall Street Journal's report in July that US$700 million (S$990 million) allegedly linked to debt-laden 1MDB was deposited into personal accounts belonging to Mr Najib, who is chairman of the state investor's advisory board.
Mr Najib has denied using state funds for personal gain.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) subsequently said that US$681 million deposited into Mr Najib's bank accounts in 2013 came from unnamed donors from the Middle East.
Mr Najib is under increasing pressure from both within and outside his Umno party to disclose the dealings behind the donation.
On Wednesday, the head of graft watchdog Transparency International, Mr Jose Ugaz, said that Malaysia was a failed state rife with corruption, citing the unanswered questions over the donation. He made the remarks at an anti-corruption conference in Kuala Lumpur.
MACC advisory board chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim yesterday dismissed the remarks, saying that one unresolved case did not mean the country was in crisis. He said Mr Ugaz was "ill-informed" and that everyone should wait for the MACC to complete its probe.
The Swiss authorities confirmed yesterday that they had frozen "several tens of millions of dollars" in Swiss bank accounts as part of an investigation into 1MDB. But 1MDB said in a statement that it had no knowledge of the Swiss action.
Meanwhile, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad will be investigated for criminal defamation over statements he allegedly made at the Bersih 4 rally last weekend, where he accused some Umno members of corruption.
"We have to record his statement because we have received a police report from an Umno division leader, and also on the statement he made on corruption," Tan Sri Khalid told reporters yesterday.
He said he would personally inform Tun Dr Mahathir about the probe, but did not say when the former premier will be called up. Dr Mahathir is currently on a trip to Jordan and will return only on Sept 9, according to his personal aide.
Last Saturday night, Dr Mahathir and his wife, Madam Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, made a surprise visit to the site of the rally.
He made a second appearance at the rally the next day, and gave a speech accusing Umno leaders of bribery. Earlier that day, he also called for a "people's power" movement to topple Mr Najib over a financial scandal.
Defamation carries a two-year jail term, a fine, or both.
Yesterday, Mr Najib lamented the attacks against him by Dr Mahathir.
"Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that one of my predecessors will be against me in this manner. But he's no longer prime minister, he shouldn't take centre stage," Mr Najib said at an event in Kuala Lumpur.
Mr Khalid said the police will also look into incidents involving protesters urinating and stomping on photos of Mr Najib.
"It (the Bersih 4 rally) is illegal and we never allowed it. When they defied our advice, we managed it. The crime has been done, we have to take whatever action. There will be more people called in. We have a team of officers looking at all video clips and photographs taken," the police chief told reporters.