KUALA LUMPUR • A former aide to the wife of former Malaysian premier Najib Razak told a court yesterday that he received RM100,000 (S$32,800) a month from Rosmah Mansor in 2012 to pay a team of "cyber troopers" to monitor content on social media and defend her from online attacks.
"This team was also responsible for countering and providing explanation to every slander, assertion and accusation towards Datin Seri Rosmah to the public," said Datuk Rizal Mansor, who is not related to Rosmah.
"The cyber troopers were operating on funds provided by Datin Seri Rosmah herself. She gave me RM100,000 cash every month to finance the team," the witness was quoted by the Malay Mail as saying in the corruption trial of Rosmah.
The 69-year-old is facing a charge of soliciting RM187.5 million and two counts of receiving a total of RM6.5 million in exchange for helping a company, Jepak Holdings, win a RM1.25 billion solar project for schools in Sarawak.
Mr Rizal himself was initially charged with four counts of soliciting and receiving bribes involving RM218 million for Rosmah over the same project. But the charges were withdrawn and he was acquitted in January.
Mr Rizal, 46, told the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday that his main responsibilities were guarding Rosmah's image and reputation as she was under close scrutiny by the public.
Mr Rizal, who is the 21st prosecution witness, said Rosmah was often the subject of public perception, such as how she was the real power behind Najib and for leading an extravagant lifestyle, Malay Mail online news said.
He said that in 2012, Rosmah told him to establish a team of cyber troopers - individuals who would disseminate online political propaganda for a fee - that would be paid by her.
Mr Rizal also told the court that Rosmah was feared in the civil service due to her reputation as the "fierce wife" of Najib, but this was merely their perception, The Star online news reported.
He added that she was seen as the spouse who could influence the decisions and actions of Najib.
"In the eyes of the public servants, Rosmah has the ability to influence the prime minister in transferring government servants who oppose or defy her requests to lesser positions, or in other words, to be put in 'cold storage', or have them moved to places farther than where they live," Mr Rizal said.
He gathered this perception, he said, when mingling with civil servants, but he said that at that point in time, he did not believe it to be true and ascribed it to rumours that were being spread to ruin Rosmah's reputation.
"As her special officer, I would always defend her image to these people," he said.