The wife of Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak, Rosmah Mansor, is now facing new accusations of soliciting and receiving bribes from a firm that bid for a project with the government. This brings charges against Rosmah to a total of 19, including tax evasion, money laundering, and others.
The new charges against Rosmah include two counts of corruption connected to a solar project for schools in Sarawak worth S$ 410 million. She had allegedly asked for a bribe of RM187.5 million (S$ 62 million) from an executive of Jepak Holdings two years ago and received RM1.5 million (S$ 492,000) in 2017.
Rosmah has asked for a trial on both charges, and the court granted her bail of RM1 million (S$ 328,000). She was accompanied at court by the former Prime Minister, who himself is facing 38 counts of graft connected to the 1Malaysian Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal. Both Najib and Rosmah have entered ‘not guilty’ pleas to all charges brought against them.
Meanwhile, the New York Times published an article on November 13 concerning Low Taek Jho, more commonly known as Jho Low, the figure at the heart of the 1MDB scandal. The Malaysian financier has apparently spent US $1.1 million dollars (S$ 1,500,000) in the last seven months on public relations firms in order to clean up his tarnished image.
The services that these firms have provided include a website that features his attorneys’ legal filings in order to present his side of the story, a 24-hour crisis response as well as endeavors to manipulate results on search engines.
Details of this “litigation communications” campaign have been revealed by two law firms representing Mr. Low, Kobre & Kim and Schillings International. The firms are legally obliged to submit filings to the United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ) under its Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which necessitates that PR firms or consultants must reveal information about their activities and fees to the US government for the purpose of preventing excessive foreign interference.
Of the US $1.1 million, over US$ 818,000 went to four companies who did PR work for Mr. Low, with over half of the amount, US$544,000, going to PRCG Haggerty, a public relations company in New York.
According to the NYT, James Haggerty, the owner of the firm, their job was to “to ensure the client is not prejudged in public in a manner that affects his legal rights in jurisdictions across the globe.” Haggerty also said this “included engaging ‘Australian partners’ to provide outreach as needed to Asian and Australian news organizations covering the international scandal.”
Five Blocks, a digital search and analytics firm, received US$210,000 to provide “digital reputation management”.
Low has already been charged in US courts for laundering billions of dollars from 1MDB, along with Tim Leissner, a former banker with Goldman Sachs, and Roger Ng, a Malaysian Goldman Sachs banker awaiting extradition to the US.
In Malaysia, both Low and his father Larry Low face charges of Monet laundering as well. Low is currently at large, and the government of Malaysia has sought help from Interpol in seeking his return.