Mahathir defends move to release Najib audio recordings

LANGKAWI • Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has defended the country's anti-corruption agency's decision to release audio recordings of former premier Najib Razak allegedly conspiring with then senior officials to cover up the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Speaking to reporters last Saturday night, Tun Dr Mahathir said the decision by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Latheefa Koya was similar to the public display of hundreds of luxury handbags and dozens of bags filled with cash and jewellery that were seized from premises linked to Najib in 2018, following police raids after his shock election defeat on May 9 that year.

"It's the same (as making public the recordings), no difference... We do not hide from the public," Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying by Bernama news agency.

Dr Mahathir's comments were in response to criticism that it was unethical for the anti-graft chief to release the nine clips of conversations last Wednesday, which the MACC believes identified Najib along with his wife Rosmah Mansor, former MACC chief Dzulkifli Ahmad, and Najib's former principal private secretary Shukry Mohd Salleh.

Najib is facing 42 graft charges related to 1MDB. He has pleaded not guilty, with his legal team claiming he was a victim of fugitive financier Low Taek Jho.

The allegations have been denied by Low.

Najib's lawyer Shafee Abdullah said the defence team is contemplating contempt proceedings against the MACC and Ms Latheefa for releasing information that was prejudicial to the trial.

The clips, which date back to 2016, allegedly offer evidence of a bid to manipulate investigations and other fraudulent acts aimed at concealing missing funds from 1MDB, the state investment firm under the then Premier's control.

Ms Latheefa said the clips were made public so that there would not be any more attempts to undermine independent bodies, The Star reported.

 
 

MP Anwar Ibrahim also weighed in on the saga.

"I think (MACC) should explain further because there are concerns about privacy and confidentiality in telephone conversations between a husband and wife," he said, referring to a recording involving Rosmah and Najib, where she was heard expressing her displeasure over a certain matter related to MACC investigations.

Datuk Seri Anwar said that the matter should be handed over to the police and referred to the court if it was indeed admissible.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2020, with the headline 'Mahathir defends move to release Najib audio recordings'. Print Edition | Subscribe