Calling the latest allegations against him "baseless smears and insinuations", Datuk Seri Najib Razak today ordered his lawyers to take legal action against two Australian dailies following reports yesterday accusing him of involvement in a bribery scandal.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said the article does not contain a single direct allegation about Najib as there is not one shred of evidence that the prime minister was in any way involved in the case which was already decided by the courts, with individuals convicted and punished.
"Instead of providing evidence to link the prime minister to the case, the article relies heavily on a series of slippery, non-conclusive words – 'suspected', 'alleged', 'suggesting' – to lead the reader into thinking that the prime minister is guilty by association.
"The prime minister has instructed his legal counsel to take all action possible against The Age and Sydney Morning Herald," the statement said.
Yesterday, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, both owned by Australia’s Fairfax Media group, said senior officials in the Australian government were aware of intelligence that implicates people in the offices of both Najib and his predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in a corruption case.
The case triggered the prosecution of several Australian businessmen who worked for companies given the contract to turn the Malaysian paper notes into polymer notes.
The Sydney Morning Herald's report yesterday said that Canberra's requests for information from Putrajaya about the case had gone unheeded.
It said Malaysia was paying no attention to the "formal mutual assistance" request from the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department to provide information about the financial dealings of a group of middlemen.
These middlemen were allegedly close to those in Najib and Abdullah's offices, Sydney Morning Herald said, and had arranged for Malaysian officials to be bribed into accepting Australian contracts to turn paper bank notes into polymer between the late 1990s and 2009.
But PMO said today that the article was a sly and underhanded way of attempting to tarnish Najib's name, despite court records quoted in the article stating that “none of the named persons (including Mr Najib and Mr Badawi) is a person whom the accused are alleged to have conspired to bribe”.
The statement also said that the article made no direct allegation against the prime minister, adding that there was not a shred of evidence that Najib was in any way involved in the case which has already been decided in the courts, with the individuals convicted and punished.
Najib is already under intense scrutiny over his brainchild, state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) which has debts of RM42 billion.
Money from entities related to 1MDB has also allegedly been channelled to his personal bank accounts as reported by The Wall Street Journal, a claim he has not addressed directly other than to say that he had never taken 1MDB money for personal gain.
Recently, Malaysia was in the spotlight in Australia when it emerged that officials from government agency Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) had been involved in a property scandal in Melbourne, purchasing an overpriced apartment block with bribes pocketed at home.
The case involving polymer bank notes first surfaced in 2009 and saw Australian police and Malaysia's anti-graft authority begin separate probes.
Three Malaysians were charged with accepting bribes to secure a contract for the polymer notes from Bank Negara – July 15, 2015.
By The Malaysian Insider