Amid lawsuit threat, WSJ publisher insists exposé on Najib accurate

BY CLARA CHOOI NEWS EDITOR
Yesterday, 1MDB issued a statement saying that it is awaiting proceeds from its debt rationalisation plan to use as payment to Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 — Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), is standing by the newspaper’s exposé linking Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to an ongoing investigation on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

In a brief statement sent to Malay Mail Online today, a Dow Jones spokesman vouched for the accuracy of the said exposé, which first appeared in the international business daily last Friday.

“We stand behind our fair and accurate coverage of this evolving story,” the spokesman said in the statement, forwarded via email to this news portal from Dow Jones’ corporate communications unit.

The statement was in response to Malay Mail Online’s request for updates from WSJ following a letter sent today from Najib’s lawyers to the publication.

The letter from law firm Hafarizam & Aisha Mubarak Advocates & Solicitors sought confirmation from Dow Jones & Company on whether if WSJ’s writers had accused the prime minister of misappropriation in their expose, which claimed that some US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) had ended up in the latter’s personal bank accounts.

In the letter, Najib’s lawyers had noted that the offending article had stated that the writers were uncertain of the source and purpose of the funds.

“We are instructed to procure your position because the articles collectively suggest that you are unsure of the original source of ‘the money and what happened to the money’ whilst on the other hand, the general gist of the articles create a clear impression that our client has misappropriated about USD 700 million belonging to 1Malaysia Development Berhad,” the letter read.

Najib’s lawyers also told WSJ that the confirmation is also necessary to enable them to then advise their client on his “appropriate legal recourse”.

In a report last Friday, the WSJ claimed that a money trail showed that US$700 million was moved between government agencies, banks and companies before it ended up in Najib’s personal accounts.

The report also quoted a spokesman from the Malaysian government saying that Najib has never taken funds from 1MDB for personal gain.

Following claims from the prime minister’s office that the allegations were “political sabotage”, WSJ’s Hong Kong bureau chief Ken Brown was quoted the following day as telling US broadcaster CNBC in a phone interview that the exposé was based on documents that “had been shared with the Malaysian attorney-general, with others in the government so they’ve been seen by all and also the prime minister”.

Brown did not disclose how WSJ sighted the documents but stressed that his reporting team took a very serious view of the story that concerns the fate of Malaysia’s top leader and the huge sum of public money.

Earlier today, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said WSJ will be investigated for possible offences involving the unauthorised release of banking information.

A special taskforce probing the WSJ report has reportedly frozen six bank accounts while documents on 17 accounts from two banks have been seized as part of investigations.