Malaysia's embattled prime minister has been forced into yet another corruption denial - this time by two newspapers that have accused him of receiving bribes from Australian firms tasked with printing print polymer banknotes.
Najib Razak on Wednesday ordered his lawyers to take legal action against The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald following a Tuesday report that linked him and former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to the case.
Calling the latest allegations against him, "baseless smears and insinuations." Razak's office said the article does not contain a single direct allegation about Najib as there is not one shred of evidence that he was in any way involved in the case, which had already been ruled on by Malaysian courts.
The case first surfaced in 2009, with Australian police and Malaysia's anti-corruption authority opening separate probes.
Three Malaysians were then charged with accepting bribes to secure a contract for the notes from the central bank. The court, however, then ruled out any connection with government officials.
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald - both owned by Australia’s Fairfax Media group - claimed Tuesday that senior officials in the Australian government were aware of intelligence that implicates people in the offices of both Razak and Badawi in the case.
Outside of proclaiming his innocence, Razak has said that the corruption charge should not relate to him, but to his loudest critic Mahathir Mohamad, saying the contract was awarded during the latter's administration.
Razak's office said the bribes were alleged to have been paid over the period between 1999 to 2000, during the administration of former Prime Ministers Mohamad and Badawi.
"Yet Fairfax Media chose not to mention Mahathir anywhere in its article. This is despite knowing that the alleged bribes took place not during Prime Minister Najib's tenure, but during Mahathir's. This is despite Mahathir being named in the suppression order regarding the case obtained by the Australian government," the office said.
"Instead, the entire article including its headline and photos focuses on and smears Prime Minister Najib," PMO said, adding that it might not be coincidental that Fairfax Media said it had separate information from "high-level sources."
The latest allegation comes weeks after Razak was accused of swindling $700 million worth of funds from debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd into his personal bank accounts.
Although the premier denied the allegation, a special task force was formed to investigate the allegations by the Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report.
The task force has since frozen six bank accounts and collected details of 17 other bank accounts in relation to the case.