KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak on Sunday said he will decide in the coming days on the form of action he will take against "malicious accusations" that millions of dollars were funnelled into his personal bank accounts.
"I am referring to the malicious accusation that I had purportedly misappropriated (the funds) into my personal account," he said, Bernama reported.
"Even if I wanted to steal, surely I would not have kept the money in a Malaysian account. As the Prime Minister, I will never betray the Malaysian public," he said.
Mr Najib said he had consulted with his lawyers "on the wild accusations against me, that I had allegedly swindled or stolen US$ 700 million ($943 million) of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds and had transferred the said money into my personal accounts." He has referred the article by The Wall Street Journal on Friday that alleged the money had been transferred to Mr Najib's accounts to his lawyers, he said.
"They will advise me on the next course of action that I may take within the country and internationally," he was quoted as saying by The Star at a press conference. "I will make a decision on the next course of action regarding the malicious accusations in a few days' time," he said.
The Star had earlier reported that sources close to the Prime Minister had told the paper he would file a suit against The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur.
The Wall Street Journal and the Sarawak Report website published an article on Friday quoting an "unnamed investigator", claiming that almost US$700 million (S$943 million) of troubled state investment company 1Malaysia Development Berhad's (1MDB) funds moved through government agencies, banks and related companies before it went into the Mr Najib's personal bank accounts.
The Prime Minister's Office responded to the report, saying that it was a "political sabotage". 1MBD has denied any wrongdoing, insisting that no funds had been transferred to Mr Najib's accounts. Mr Najib had also accused former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad of "working hand in glove" with foreign nationals and behind what he said the "latest lie".
Meanwhile, Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail said in a statement late on Saturday that a multi-agency task force was probing “the allegations linked to the flow of funds into the personal accounts of Prime Minister.
“I have advised the special task force to follow up on the next course of action,” Mr Abdul Gani said in the statement, which was issued in Malay. “The investigation will focus on every aspect raised. I am confident the multi-agency taskforce will enable the investigations to be carried out in a professional and in-depth manner,” he added, without elaborating.
In its report, the WSJ cited documents it said it had obtained, including bank transfer forms and flow charts prepared by government investigators. The newspaper said the original source of the money was unclear, and noted that the government investigation did not detail what happened to the funds that allegedly went into Mr Najib’s accounts.
Mr Najib's aides had on Saturday said he would take legal action against the US newspaper. “The report was most malicious and unsubstantiated, with weak and dubious sources. We will take action according to the law,” Mr Muhammad Khairun Aseh, political secretary to Mr Najib was quoted as saying by the Malay-language daily Sinar Harian Saturday.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the second-most-powerful member of Mr Najib’s party, had piled on the pressure in comments published Sunday calling on authorities to investigate the allegations in the WSJ report.
“We want the truth. This is a very serious allegation that can jeopardise his credibility and integrity as prime minister and leader of the government,” Mr Muhyiddin said, according to the Sunday Star newspaper.
1MDB was launched in 2009 by Mr Najib, who still chairs its advisory board.
Critics say it has been opaque in explaining its dealings. It is reeling under an estimated US$11 billion debt, which has weighed on the ringgit currency, which tumbled to its lowest level since July 2005 on Friday, amid allegations of mismanagement and murky overseas transactions.
Critics, including powerful Dr Mahathir, have also called for criminal investigations, but both Mr Najib and 1MDB have denied wrongdoing in the past, saying the company is on a solid footing. Under pressure, Mr Najib earlier this year ordered his auditor-general to examine 1MDB’s books. Its report has not yet been released.