Malaysian opposition politician's former aide tells him to come clean about Cambridge Analytica's link

PETALING JAYA - An aide for Malaysian opposition politician Mukhriz Mahathir has accused him of not coming clean over Cambridge Analytica (CA) and its involvement in the country's 2013 general election campaign, The Star reported.

Mr Azrin Zizal, the South-East Asia head of SCL group, Cambridge Analytica's sister company, on Wednesday (March 21) denied that the embattled big data firm had ever been engaged by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition for the contest in Kedah state.

He claimed that he had instead worked personally with Datuk Seri Mukhriz, who spearheaded the BN's election campaign in Kedah in 2013. Mr Mukhriz, a former BN leader, joined the opposition in 2016 after being sacked by the BN's main Umno party over his criticism of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

"Mukhriz said Cambridge Analytica worked for Barisan Nasional … (but) at no time has Cambridge Analytica or its parent SCL Group ever worked for, or been paid by, Barisan or any part of the Government of Malaysia," Mr Azrin said in a statement.

"The 2013 election advice for Kedah was provided to Mukhriz personally," he said.

The London-based political consulting firm has been under scrutiny after being accused of extracting the personal data of up to 50 million Facebook users without their consent. In an undercover report by Britain's Channel 4, the firm's executives mentioned it was involved in Malaysia's election.

On its website, Cambridge Analytica had said that it "supported Barisan Nasional (BN) in Kedah state with a targeted messaging campaign highlighting (its) school improvements since 2008".

"Barisan Nasional won Kedah back from Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th General Election and walked away from a successful campaign. With wins in 21 out of 36 state seats and 10 out of the 15 parliamentary seats in the state, BN enjoyed a landslide victory," it added. Pakatan Rakyat was the opposition pact then.

Mr Azrin said he had provided communications and strategy advice for Mr Mukhriz until 2015, adding that he had evidence to support this.

Mr Mukhriz said via Twitter on Tuesday that Mr Azrin was his media officer from 2009 to 2013 when Mr Mukhriz was at the Ministry of Trade and Industry. "He was not employed by me as a representative of SCL Group or Cambridge Analytica, and he was no longer my media officer when I became Kedah MB," he said, referring to his post as Menteri Besar.

The Malaysian government has denied employing the firm, and said any services were provided personally to Mr Mukhriz.

Mr Mukhriz late on Thursday said he stood by his earlier statement.

"Every media representative in Kedah knows that my media officer while I was MB (Menteri Besar) was – and still is – Mohd Fisol Jaafar," he was quoted saying by The Star.

"His claims that BN's win in Kedah and my subsequent appointment as MB was all his doing are absolutely delusional," said Mr Mukhriz.

"He should also be reminded that it was his employer, CA themselves, who claimed in their website that they helped BN in Kedah. I never admitted to knowing anything about that."