In what the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) branded as a “criminal conspiracy at the highest level”, nine audio clips of phone conversations involving the nation’s former premier Najib Razak — including those with the Commission’s former chief Dzulkifli Ahmad — were made public on Wed (8 Jan).
MACC chief Latheefa Koya told reporters at a press conference at the Commission’s headquarters in Putrajaya yesterday that the conversations in the 45-minute audio recording took place between 5 Jan 2016 and 29 Jul the same year.
Around the same period, the United States’ Justice Department had announced its anti-graft probe into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad sovereign fund.
Rosmah Mansor, Najib’s wife, was heard in the recording instructing her husband to “take control” of the 1MDB scandal surfacing at the time.
“Can I advise you something?” Rosmah was heard as saying to Najib in a loud tone, after which she said: “Darling, you are the PM, you have to take control. You have goons around to advise you.”
Among other individuals which MACC identified in the audio recordings were the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed Zayed Al-Nahyan and former Tabung Haji chairman Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.
Labelling the contents of the recordings as “shocking”, Latheefa said that they are “a cover-up and subversion of justice”.
She added: “This is of public interest and affects national security. From our own expertise, we can see it has elements of power abuse, fabrication of evidence and leaking of information protected under the Official Secrets Act.”
While Latheefa could not comment on how the MACC managed to obtain the recordings, she said that her team of forensics experts were able to “confirm their absolute authenticity”.
She noted that the audio recordings will be given to the police, as most of the offences pertaining to the recordings fall under the Malaysian Penal Code.
Najib’s counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, however, said that the MACC chief — who was a practicing civil rights lawyer prior to her appointment — should have been aware that releasing information related to an ongoing trial is against the law.
“Releasing the tapes now and discussing in public in a media release is, in fact, subjudice, and is in fact a contempt (of the court).
“We are seriously contemplating a contempt action against MACC, and in particular Latheefa Koya,” he added.
“As a lawyer, she should know that this is not just merely bordering contempt — it is contemptuous, (and) now, was MACC trying to influence and subjudice the ongoing trials?” Shafee questioned.
When asked if recording someone’s conversation is legal, Shafee replied that it could only be done with approval from the Attorney-General or Solicitor General, New Straits Times reported.
Following the MACC’s exposé of the recordings to the public, Rosmah told reporters on the sidelines of her Sarawak solar project case management at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Wed that her lawyers “will look into it” and “will take care of it”.
Najib similarly told reporters after his SRC International Sdn Bhd corruption trial at the same court on the same day that he was “shocked by this revelation”, and that he has referred the matter to his lawyer to see if tapping into phone calls made by a sitting prime minister is a violation of any Malaysian law.
“Tapping of the conversation that was done against a prime minister, even more with other heads of governments, and this can cause an effect to the diplomatic relationships between Malaysia and other countries,” he added.