MALAYSIA’S Communications and Multimedia Ministry on Sunday warned legal action against some of the world’s most influential news organisations over their coverage on the multi-billion dollar scandal involving a sovereign state fund.
Deputy Minister Jailani Johari said the government would act against the foreign media that published “fake news” about the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, which has thrust back into the limelight following the recent seizure of a US$250 million superyacht by Indonesian authorities and US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) officials.
Jailani said the ministry has identified the news organisations that are “trying to revive” the 1MDB issue following the seizure of the yacht off the coast of Bali, Indonesia late last month.
According to Free Malaysia Today (via Bernama) Jailani said among those portals are The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), The New York Times, The Economist, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and the latest, MSNBC.
US Department of Justice officials sought the seizure of the luxury vessel last year as it was allegedly bought with money from the sovereign wealth fund.
In its civil claim, the department identified Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho as a person “whose interest might be affected” by the seizure of the ship.
Low, who is also known as Jho Low, is reportedly a close associate of Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak who set up the fund in 2009.
On the media coverage of the seizure, Jailani said the so-called fake news was spread to taint Najib’s credibility.
“While the government is trying to combat fake news here, these issues are brought up by sources from outside the country,” he was quoted as saying.
“The investigations into 1MDB have proven that the allegations of abuse and loss of money are untrue. The case was investigated by the authorities, including the Public Accounts Committee, which has members of the opposition.”
The 1MDB is at the centre of money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.
A total of US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to civil lawsuits filed by the DOJ.
Najib previously served as chairman of its advisory board. He and the fund have denied any wrongdoing.
Low’s whereabouts are unknown and his Hong Kong company has not responded to requests for comment.
Following the seizure, a spokesperson for Low was quoted in Malaysian media said it was “disappointing that, rather than reflecting on the deeply flawed and politically motivated allegations, the DOJ is continuing with its pattern of global overreach – all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing”.
Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement that the seizure of Equanimity in Indonesia was a US court civil forfeiture action against Low and not against 1MDB.
“The Royal Malaysian Police has also not received any information from Indonesian authorities or the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the seizure of the Equanimity in Indonesian waters on Feb 28. The RMP has also not been contacted by any other party to assist in the investigation regarding the yacht.”
Additional reporting by Reuters