The Malaysian authorities yesterday accused Sarawak Report founder Clare Rewcastle-Brown of an "evil" plot to topple Prime Minister Najib Razak, after the London- based website published purported graft charge sheets against the Malaysian leader late on Thursday.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said Sarawak Report would be investigated under Section 124 of the Penal Code, which covers actions detrimental to parliamentary democracy.
His remarks came after both the public prosecutor and anti-graft agency dismissed the website's claims that Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail was sacked on Tuesday just as he was about to bring graft charges against Datuk Seri Najib.
"The report put out by Sarawak Report is an evil report to create a negative perception against the Prime Minister," newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said at a joint press conference with the police chief - his first since Tuesday's sweeping changes to the government.
The website had reported that Mr Gani was locked out of his own office on Monday, where he had been preparing a draft of a charge sheet against Mr Najib and a director of a firm related to RM42 million (S$15 million), allegedly deposited in Mr Najib's personal bank accounts earlier this year.
The money is part of a total of US$700 million (S$960 million) linked to troubled state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was allegedly transferred to Mr Najib's accounts over the past two years, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on July 3. Mr Najib has denied using state funds for personal gain but has yet to clarify whether the money was funnelled into his accounts.
On Tuesday, the government announced that Mr Gani was being replaced as Attorney-General. On the same day, Mr Najib sacked five Cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, a vocal critic of debt-laden 1MDB. Mr Najib chairs 1MDB's board.
But the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which has been investigating the alleged funds transfer, said in a statement yesterday that it had not completed the probe. Therefore, it said the issue of a charge sheet should not arise.
New Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali said the charge papers were fake and "indicate there is a conspiracy to topple a serving prime minister by criminalising him, and the methods include doctoring and criminal leakage".
But Ms Rewcastle-Brown scoffed at the conspiracy claims, telling The Straits Times the documents she published had been "verified by a strong independent source". She added that an expert told her these were prepared by someone familiar with criminal breach of trust and corruption matters, and that it was not plausible they were concocted.
Mr Gani has not responded to requests for comment.
Cracks have started to show in the ruling Umno over party president Najib's move to sack his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin from the Cabinet, with several grassroots leaders in his home state of Johor quitting their party posts to protest against the deputy president's treatment.
Although the party called off a top leadership meeting and a presidential briefing for leaders from the 191 divisions that was scheduled for yesterday, Mr Najib met Umno state liaison chiefs privately at his residence in the evening, including Kedah liaison chief Mukhriz Mahathir.
Government sources told The Straits Times Mr Najib is "not done cleaning house yet", and further changes to the administration could follow if doubts continue to be raised over his links to 1MDB.
According to The Malaysian Insider, Mr Najib said at an event at a Putrajaya mosque that 1MDB "has become something wrong because of the perception, due to slander being put in the minds of the people".
Meanwhile, Mr Najib's harshest critic, former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, told reporters yesterday he will no longer speak about 1MDB's debts as it was now "a crime to talk about 1MDB".
•With additional reporting by Amy Chew