‘Contemptuous’: Malaysia’s Najib seeks court order to remove Netflix’s 1MDB show

On Monday, Shafee Abdullah, Najib’s lead counsel, applied for the prosecution to review the documentary and urge the attorney general to advise the government to take down Man on the Run from at least Netflix’s Malaysia platform, arguing that it was “contemptuous” and had cast unfair aspersions on his client.


The legacy of Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal on politics and corruption-fighting

The legacy of Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal on politics and corruption-fighting

Shafee highlighted allegations made by former attorney general Tommy Thomas and Clare Rewcastle-Brown, editor of news site Sarawak Report, in the documentary.

He said they included Rewcastle-Brown’s allegation that Najib had a hand in the murder of a deputy public prosecutor in connection to a 1MDB probe, and further allegations that Najib was involved in the 2006 murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.

“From a simple 1MDB case, Datuk Seri Najib is now being insinuated to being a serial killer,” Shafee told a news conference broadcast on Facebook, using Najib’s honorifics.

Shafee said they were “highly likely” to take legal action against Thomas and Rewcastle-Brown for contempt of court linked to the documentary, and additionally for defamation against Rewcastle-Brown over the alleged link to the killing of the deputy public prosecutor.

Man on the Run screened in October in Malaysian cinemas, a month after its release in Britain and the United States, and premiered on Netflix on January 5.
The 98-minute show focuses on the plunder of billions of ringgit through 1MDB, including the alleged role played by Najib – who founded the fund as premier – and his associates, chiefly fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low.
Shafee Abdullah, chief lawyer of Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak. Photo: AFP

Thomas was attorney general when Najib was first charged in 2018, while Rewcastle-Brown was one of the first to break the news on 1MDB. Both were interviewed in the programme, as was Najib himself, who maintained that he had done no wrong.

The eldest son of Malaysia’s second prime minister, Najib led the country for nine years from 2009.

During his time in office, he repealed a clutch of colonial-era laws that allowed detention without trial and pushed a fresh economic agenda aimed at bolstering foreign investments at a time when the country was starting to fall behind its regional peers.

But he has been accused of diverting funds from infrastructure mega-projects launched during his tenure, including the Chinese-funded East Coast Rail Link, to cover up for billions of ringgit in debt incurred by 1MDB.

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Najib began serving a 12-year jail term in August 2022 after failing to overturn a corruption conviction linked to some 42 million ringgit (US$9 million) funnelled through a former unit of 1MDB.

Last March, he was acquitted of allegedly tampering with an audit report to cover up wrongdoing in 1MDB, but faces three other trials linking him to the alleged plunder of the state fund.

The US Department of Justice, which launched an international probe on 1MDB in 2016, has said that more than US$4.5 billion had been stolen from the state fund and used to fund everything from luxury properties to Hollywood productions. It has been described as the single largest kleptocracy case ever uncovered by US authorities.

The 1MDB scandal propelled an unprecedented vote against Najib’s then-undefeated Barisan Nasional coalition, leading to the country’s first-ever change of government in the 2018 national election.

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