Lawyers mull over next step as WSJ stands firm

Prime Minister Najib Razak's (above) lawyers are mulling over the next course of action against WSJ.
Prime Minister Najib Razak's (above) lawyers are mulling over the next course of action against WSJ.PHOTO: AFP

Prime Minister Najib Razak's lawyers are mulling over the next course of action against the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), after the American newspaper said it stood by its reports that millions of ringgit had been funnelled into the Malaysian leader's personal bank accounts.

Datuk Seri Najib's lawyer Wan Azmir Wan Majid said, in an SMS to the Malaysian Insider news website yesterday, that the Prime Minister would be advised on how to proceed once a reply from the WSJ and its publisher Dow Jones & Company has been studied.

In an e-mail to the Malay Mail Online yesterday, Dow Jones said it had responded to a request for clarification from Mr Najib's lawyers and that it will continue to stand by the accuracy of its reports.

"Yes, we responded to the lawyers' letter yesterday and continue to stand by our reporting," the news website quoted the Dow Jones spokesman as saying.

On July 8, the newspaper and its publisher were given 14 days to respond to Mr Najib's lawyers' letter asking for confirmation that its writers had accused the Premier of misappropriation of funds from state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

In reports on July 3, the WSJ alleged that US$700 million (S$960 million) had been moved from 1MDB into Mr Najib's personal bank accounts.

Mr Najib has denied taking 1MDB funds for personal gain, but he has not directly addressed the allegations of the fund transfers into his accounts. These allegations are being investigated by the special task force that has been set up to probe alleged irregularities at 1MDB.

Meanwhile, the Sarawak Report, a whistle-blower site that made the same allegations of fund transfers to Mr Najib's accounts, has said it is preparing to file police reports against Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Governance Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan and former journalist Lester Melanyi for criminal defamation.

"We are consulting our lawyers with a view to reporting Rahman to the Malaysian police and also issuing libel proceedings against him and other parties, including the New Straits Times and other publications, which have deliberately promoted falsehoods designed to damage the credibility of Sarawak Report," the organisation wrote on its website.

"We will also report Lester's vicious criminal libel to the local police (he's not worth suing) and we warn him and anyone who continues to promote his present and future made-up stories that we will seek appropriate damages," it said.

Mr Lester has alleged that the Sarawak Report fabricated evidence against 1MDB.

He claimed to have been an editor at the Sarawak Report, and that he and the website's editor-in- chief Clare Rewcastle-Brown had worked with a British graphic designer to falsify 1MDB documents.

Mr Rahman has endorsed Mr Melanyi, saying his confessions in two videos were proof of attempts to undermine Mr Najib, reported the Malaysiakini news website.

In another development, 1MDB subsidiary Edra Global Energy is reported to have made a police report alleging that hackers have tried to steal sensitive data from it.

Quoting a report by The Edge Financial Daily, Malaysiakini reported that no information was stolen during the hacking attempt earlier this month.

The website said that according to a copy of the police report seen by The Edge, the hacking attempt began on July 1, with hackers trying to log into the company's servers using identities such as "Admin", "Support" and "Root". They attempted an average of about 10 to 15 log-in attempts per hour and the attack's target is believed to be confidential financial information stored in a secured virtual data room, reported Malaysiakini.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Lawyers mull over next step as WSJ stands firm'. Print Edition | Subscribe