It’s baloney, says Sarawak Report over ‘Whale’ author’s claims

Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown says she has set the record straight and plans to move on. (AFP pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown has once again rubbished the claims by Wall Street Journal journalist Tom Wright over a source who revealed details of Najib Razak’s US$681 million transfer to his personal account.

She was responding to Wright’s comments earlier today where he denied both parties had come to an agreement prior to breaking the story.

“Wright himself had pledged to mention Sarawak Report in the article about the leak. I said he didn’t necessarily have to admit I gave him the documents but should recognise my work,” she said, adding the US daily didn’t do this as well.

“His talk about independent verification in this story is baloney. He didn’t need it because I am a seasoned journalist, I knew what he needed to run the story and I provided him with it,” Rewcastle-Brown told FMT, reiterating her stand from last week.

In a blog post on Sarawak Report previously, Rewcastle-Brown claimed that Wright had broken a number of pledges including promising to do right by her when she first gave the WSJ the documents in 2015.

For a start, they had promised not to contact her source without going through her first, she said.

“Far more importantly, he (Wright) also promised that he would not reproduce the documents on his website, because the source was fearful that showing the documents would point to who they were,” she had written.

“Nevertheless, shortly after the original story, Wright did put those documents up on the WSJ website, despite that promise, causing great fear to Sarawak Report’s source, many of whose colleagues were indeed arrested shortly after, in a search for the leak.”

Wright, who detailed the paper trail in “Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World”, a book he co-authored with Bradley Hope, today denied these claims, saying this was reported independently through their own source, and not through Rewcastle-Brown.

“The answer is no, it’s not true… Our reporting process is independent of Clare Rewcastle-Brown’s reporting process, and there were no agreements to do deals together or anything like that,” Wright said.

Rewcastle-Brown said there was no need for further verification on the source and questioned the timing of the first WSJ story on the RM2.6 billion revelation back in 2015, which came out a few days after she introduced the WSJ journalists to her source.

She said she took months to do this, and added that Wright was not even there when she handed over these documents to WSJ’s Simon Clarke, a colleague of his from the UK.

“I sent an email called 1MDB/Najib to Wright on Sunday, June 28, 2015, telling him I had inflammatory material. The next Tuesday I presented him with the material and an introduction to a key source.

“On Thursday, July 2, we both ran the story. I am sure WSJ will have rung round in the intervening 36 hours to check out the story but they did not receive it from a separate source,” she said.

Rewcastle-Brown told FMT that this would be the last time she was speaking on the issue as the main point was that the story was highlighted around the globe. She said there was no need to further pressure her source.

“Having said all of the above, there are more important things than Tom Wright and his bad manners, which is why I kept quiet about this until I saw that there was serious misreporting going on about how he got the story.

“I have now set the record straight and plan to move on. As Tom Wright has put it, this has been about his great career move from start to finish and sadly he has forgotten a lot of important things along the way,” she said.

Wright today, nevertheless, lauded Rewcastle-Brown’s work on the matter, and said “anyone who read the book” would see that she played a “central role” in uncovering the 1MDB scandal, along with The Edge, and that this was highlighted in detail.

Rewcastle-Brown, who also recently published a book titled “The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé” detailing the 1MDB saga and the alleged role of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, was one of the first to break the story in 2015.

Transactions involving 1MDB are being investigated in half a dozen countries, including the United States, where it has become the biggest case pursued by the Department of Justice under its anti-kleptocracy programme.

The DoJ has alleged in lawsuits that more than US$4.5 billion from 1MDB was laundered through a complex web of transactions and shell companies, of which US$681 million, or RM2.6 billion, ended up in Najib’s bank accounts.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing in the scandal and was cleared by the former attorney-general. He has since claimed trial to multiple counts of alleged money laundering and criminal breach of trust relating to a former 1MDB subsidiary.