Former Malaysian premier turned government critic Mahathir Mohamad claimed yesterday that he was privy to classified information on the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), although such knowledge is a criminal offence.
Writing in his blog, the new chief of the opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance said this was the basis for accusing Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali of hiding evidence of graft in 1MBD's dealings by placing the official reports on the scandal-hit fund under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
"There are comments that I know the contents of reports by Bank Negara Malaysia, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Auditor-General to Apandi. Yes, I do know. I know Apandi lied," Tun Dr Mahathir wrote in Malay.
The 92-year-old said he was told of the details by former deputy premier Muhyiddin Yassin, who had been briefed by Tan Sri Apandi's predecessor Abdul Gani Patail in 2015. Dr Mahathir and Tan Sri Muhyiddin have formed a new party together after Mr Muhyiddin, along with Tan Sri Gani, were removed from government in July 2015 after revelations that US$700 million (S$953 million) linked to 1MDB were deposited into Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal accounts.
Datuk Seri Najib said that the money was a political donation from the Saudi royal family, a claim that was affirmed by Mr Apandi when clearing the Prime Minister of any wrongdoing last year.
Dr Mahathir wrote that the state secrets were shared and discussed within the party leadership.
His revelation could open the door for both him and Mr Muhyiddin to be arrested and even jailed under the OSA, lawyers said.
"Even possession of a secret document is a crime, let alone publicising it," constitutional lawyer Syahredan Johan told The Straits Times.
Opposition lawmaker Rafizi Ramli was convicted in November last year for breaching the OSA, by publicly disclosing documents from the Auditor-General's report on 1MDB during a press conference last year. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison but is appealing against the decision.
Should Dr Mahathir - who led Malaysia for 22 years - suffer the same fate of being hauled to court and convicted, there will be some backlash. But analysts do not rule out such an outcome, as the government has become used to handling such fallout.
"Jailing Anwar was partly responsible for the opposition disintegrating despite some public uproar," S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies' senior fellow Oh Ei Sun told The Straits Times, referring to opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim's controversial sodomy conviction in 2015. "It (the opposition) was subsequently reunited by Dr Mahathir. So, removing him can have a similar effect as Anwar's jailing."
Dr Mahathir had previously challenged Mr Apandi to swear on the Quran that Mr Najib was not implicated in wrongdoing over 1MDB, which at one point had more than RM51 billion (S$16.2 billion) in debt.
This was in response to the Attorney-General's insistence that he was not covering up any crime involving the state investor.
The Pakatan Harapan chairman's blogpost comes a day after Mr Najib attacked Dr Mahathir for what he said was a legacy of crony capitalism.
Mr Najib had also defended his action on the fund, saying on Tuesday: "At 1MDB, it is now clear that there were lapses in governance. However, rather than burying our heads in the sand, we ordered investigations into the company on a scale unprecedented in our nation's history."