‘Whale’ author denies deal with Sarawak Report over source of leak

Tom Wright with a copy of his book on the 1MDB scandal at a forum in Kuala Lumpur today.

KUALA LUMPUR: One of the two Wall Street Journal journalists who authored the book on fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho has denied a claim that they had an agreement with Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown over a source who revealed details of Najib Razak’s US$681 million transfer.

Tom Wright, who co-authored “Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World” with Bradley Hope, was responding to Rewcastle-Brown’s claim last week that they did not credit her portal as the source despite promising to do so.

Wright also shrugged off further comments by her that he had promised not to publish documents given to him and Hope by her, relating to the money transfer involving the former prime minister.

“The answer is no, it’s not true,” he said today at a talk here to discuss his book.

“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,” he said.

He also denied that publication of documents showing wire transfers into Najib’s accounts had harmed the sources.

“I have to be clear about that. My self honour as a journalist is at stake here,” said Wright.

Rewcastle-Brown, who recently published her own account of her role in investigating the 1MDB affair, had accused Wright of now claiming a “very different series of events”, saying the source was a Sarawak Report source.

“That is not the only pledge he broke. He also said he would continue to contact the source through Sarawak Report, and not attempt to go behind Sarawak Report’s back,” she said recently.

“Far more importantly, he also promised that he would not reproduce the documents themselves on his website, because the source was fearful that showing the documents would point to who they were,” Rewcastle-Brown wrote, adding that many colleagues of the source had been arrested shortly after WSJ’s report.

But Wright today said the crackdown had “nothing to do” with the documents released by WSJ.

“Clare thinks that there was some agreement with us to report together three years ago, and our views on that are totally different.

“We believe we reported this independently, while she believes somehow there was an agreement between us. But that’s not how we see it,” he said.

Wright, nevertheless, praised Rewcastle-Brown’s work on the matter, adding that his book had acknowledged the “central role” she played in uncovering the 1MDB scandal.

Meanwhile, asked to comment on the flak surrounding Malaysian-born actress Michelle Yeoh’s role in co-producing the movie version of “Billion Dollar Whale”, Wright said he had no problem with her involvement.

“If you show me that Michelle Yeoh has done something illegal, then I would be worried, but no one has shown me that.

“She supported Barisan Nasional in the last election because her family were MCA politicians, and lots of people were supporting BN in 2013, even Mahathir,” he said.

“I’m not involved in Malaysia, I don’t follow the politics. I don’t have a skin in the game, so I don’t have a problem with this.”

Wright also disagreed with Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah who said that his book proved that Najib was innocent as he had been misled by Jho Low in the 1MDB affair.