Najib's lawyers to advise him to sue WSJ in Malaysia, not US

KUALA LUMPUR • Lawyers for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters yesterday that they are inclined to tell their client to file a defamation suit against the publisher of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in Malaysia, and not in the United States where the newspaper is based, for maximum damage as the Premier has a greater reputation in the country.

Datuk Seri Najib has earlier indicated that he wanted to take the business daily to court after its two reports in July alleging irregularities when some US$700 million (S$981 million) were discovered in his personal bank accounts.

But so far, no legal action has been carried out except an earlier move by his lawyers to query the WSJ's publisher on its reports.

"We are inclined to advise him to file it in Malaysia," said Mr Mohd Hafarizam Harun, who is one of Mr Najib's panel of lawyers, as quoted by the Malay Mail Online news site. Datuk Hafarizam was met by reporters at the Duta Court Complex yesterday.

Datuk Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin, another member of Mr Najib's legal team, said a plaintiff has the choice of where he wants to file his lawsuit.

"If a politician is from Malaysia, why should he have to go and sue in a foreign jurisdiction?" the lawyer said. "I think one's reputation is where one lives, rather than suing in a place where one doesn't really live or have that great of a reputation as where one lives."

The lawyers were asked why PM Najib had not yet sued WSJ publisher, Dow Jones & Co, in the US, the Malay Mail Online report said.

They were also asked about the apparent delay in serving the legal papers. Mr Hafarizam said he sent letters to the publisher within five days after the alleged defamatory articles were published in July. But they needed to get some legal answers first from the publisher.

"It's not about delaying, it's about doing it right the first time because I don't want the suit suddenly to be knocked off on technicality and the main issue is sidetracked, it is no longer about Wall Street Journal but our inability and inefficiency that the suit is dismissed," he told reporters.

Dow Jones had earlier said that the lawyers' request for clarifications over the reports was unnecessary, as the articles spoke for themselves.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2015, with the headline Najib's lawyers to advise him to sue WSJ in Malaysia, not US. Subscribe