BN repeatedly denied before the last election that it had brought in secret foreign election managers and PR advisors to manipulate the electorate, despite several reports and warnings by Sarawak Report.
Today more evidence emerged from an investigation by the Guardian newspaper substantiated what Sarawak Report has also learnt from independent sources, which is that the PR firm CFT partners, run by the right leaning ‘reputation manager’ and election manager Lynton Crosby, was active in KL on behalf of Najib in the run up to GE14.
A senior director of CTF Sam Lyon was sent to Malaysia to set up an office there, the Guardian confirms. Lyon was previously the manager of the new UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s earlier mayoral campaigns, which in turn were bankrolled by a Tory party donor and former treasurer who is familiar to Malaysians as being an ally of Najib’s, Lord Marland.
As Sarawak Report has detailed, Marland’s own company SCL (he is one of the shareholders) was also hired to advise BN both in the 2016 Sarawak election and for GE14. SCL later gained global notoriety as the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, which abused Facebook data to seek to influence the US election and Brexit referendum in 2016.
Sam Lyon, the head of CTF Partners’ London office who previously worked as Johnson’s director of communications, was a member of the team who worked with the party of Malaysia’s then prime minister, Najib Razak. The Asian politician was later toppled amid ongoing accusations of involvement in a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal. [Guardian 2nd August]
After the Malaysian election defeat for the CTF client Lyon returned to run the London office for CTF, which is believed to have been quietly working on Johnson’s leadership bid from the moment he resigned as foreign secretary last year. That connection was only acknowledged just days before the party polls and it has now emerged that CTF provided their candidate with a loan to cover some of the costs of that campaign.
Sam Lyon is now being tipped by jubilant CTF office staff as the likely pick to be the new prime minister’s communications man, according to insiders information made available to Sarawak Report. Others have expressed concern about the dangers of undue influence over the new prime minister by a company that has numerous clients in big business and handles the reputations of some of the world’s wealthiest individuals.
Today’s series of articles in the Guardian expose a series of apparently unethical and deceptive practices by the PR company, which hides its clients and operates anonymously in their favour by setting up social media and Facebook campaigns promoting their interests whilst pretending to represent the views of ordinary, unpaid members of the public.
Key clients for whom CTF have run covert fake media operations include the government of Saudi Arabia, for whom it ran sites promoting the country’s attacks on Yemen and the major coal mining concern Glencore, for which it created climate denying sites. Likewise, in the run up to the conservative leadership vote, CTF staff set up what are believed to have been highly influential Facebook pages (they were pushed to millions of readers) promoting the once fringe concept of a No Deal Brexit and aggressively attacking political figures who oppose the idea.
These paid operators are accused of setting up the sites under their personal email addresses rather than CTF’s office address to disguise the fact that these were commissioned operations rather than an expression of genuine public opinion.
CTF is secretive about its client lists, to the extent of keeping its own staff in the dark about which clients their colleagues are working with – operating on a ‘need to know’ basis and fearsome non-disclosure clauses. So, as yet it is unclear what the sources of income have been to fund the operation and what the agenda is.
However, Lord Marland is certainly understood to continue to be part of the inner circle and remains a regular visitor to Malaysia, apparently promoting trade and the development of closer bilateral ties as the UK looks set to lose much of its trading links with Europe.