Updated with further responses 20th June 2021:
The texts that sparked a police report by the Chief Justice are now circulating on social media and so Sarawak Report will now detail those allegations having sent requests for comment from the named parties involved.
At the heart of the interchange that has caused so much concern is a civil suit lodged in KL by a former legal officer against a major Norwegian oil and gas services provider, Aker Solutions.
A local manager of the company has recently been charged with corrupt practices relating to contracts being sought from Petronas and press reports of the separate civil suit indicate that the former KL legal counsel to Aker has sued the company for wrongful dismissal and defamation on the basis she had attempted to report wrongdoing in 2018 but was sidelined and then blamed.
The texts relate to an interchange between an apparent employee of Aker by the name of Harald and an individual who is either representing the legal officer or is the litigant herself.
One excerpt, now circulating online, opens with the latter protesting that mobile phone texts are “not safe”. Harald replies he is out of WhatsApp range, but he is using his wife’s phone as an apparent precaution. This would indicate the participants are aware of the sensitive and secret nature of their conversation:
The conversation then takes a more damning tone as Harald volunteers advice that his interlocutor would do “best to propose a settlement”, because he claims that Aker has ensured that it will win the outcome of an upcoming judgement in the courts.
Harald goes on to explain why the die is already cast in his opinion. He says it is because “Frode”, assumed to be Aker’s chief legal counsel Frode Stromo, had:
“shown the committee a chat record between himself andand Mr lim chee wee. In that Mr Lim has confirmed “the path is covered till the CJ. We had used Rosli Dahlan”.
The available excerpt from the text appears to indicate that the position of the CJ [Chief Justice] on the matter is then discussed. The details are not available.
At which point the representative of the litigant is seen to reply:
“Are you sure Harald? Why would the CJ risk her reputation over Aker?”
This is a question many Malaysians would surely ask and indeed the Chief Justice’s own department is now behind the lodging of a police report on the matter now that the texts have become public.
That police report accuses two lawyers of bringing the judiciary into dispute as a result of these exchanges and it is understood they are named as Lim Chee Wee and Rosli Dahlan, who is known to be the prime minister’s own personal lawyer and who has been elevated into several highly influential roles in a number of key cases being litigated by the Malaysian government since PN seized power.
The reason, retorts Harald in the final excerpt, where he promises that his information that the case has been rigged is quite correct, is because the matter has become political:
“Yes I promise you. The 2 Norway govt rep had in previous meeting stated the ultimatum to Aker. Get this cleared! It is no longer Aker vs you. It is a bilateral issue. Discuss with your lawyer but in the meeting we were guaranteed your appeal will not succeed as the path is taken care for us. Propose….” [highlight added]
The implications of this discussion are serious on many fronts whatever the interpretation on these remarks. Firstly, that a major Norwegian company appears to have found fit to seek to go round the backdoors of Malaysia’s legal system to pressure for a desired outcome in the courts is scandalous.
Worse is the suggestion of influence peddling by the Norwegian government, whether true or not, and worse still the suggestion that the Malaysian government might be willing to assist by leaning on its own judiciary.
Aker Solutions has contacted Sarawak Report to deny the allegations completely saying the “screenshots of alleged mobile phone text messages .. appear to be fabricated”. The statement made last night continues:
“Aker Solutions has no knowledge of the allegations in the media article, nor the alleged text messages. Aker Solutions will report this to police authorities. The company strongly rejects the suggestion of inappropriate interference with legal processes”
A spokesman for the company also contested that the charges lodged last week against an Aker Solutions employee amounted to corrupt practice as suggested by Sarawak Report. The employee has been charged with submitting false documents and made false representations in order to win Petronas licences according to Reuters.
The lawyer named in the texts, Lim Chee Wee, has further told Sarawak Report he will also be making a police report and insiders have divulged that this will claim that his advice to the company has been falsely represented in the messages. Meanwhile, in a response on Saturday he told Sarawak Report:
“I will respond substantively to your email below within 24 hours after I have lodged my police report tomorrow morning Malaysian time denying these baseless and fabricated allegations”
The responses imply a flat denial on the part of both parties that the information is genuine leaving Malaysians to wonder why the Chief Justice’s Department, having presumably done its due diligence on the matter, decided to lodge its own police report denouncing the two lawyers named for bringing the profession into disrepute?
It would appear that at least one party to this affair has sought to use these two lawyers’ known closeness to each other and to the seat of power either to drum up expensive clients or to put undue and dishonest pressure on the litigant in the context of a perception that the judicial system cannot be trusted in Malaysia.
It will not be hard for the Malaysian authorities to determine whether these timed texts which were passed to the Chief Justice by parties she plainly considered to be believable are genuine and who sent them.
Careful questioning ought then to get to the bottom of either who has been conning who or whether a litigant was indeed pressured on behalf of a foreign company to come to a settlement in the light of information that the case had been sewn up by Malaysian lawyers close to the seat of power.
Clearly the Chief Justice of Malaysia has found the matter serious enough to be worth investigating rather than dismissing as ‘fake news’.
Sarawak Report has reached out to Rosli Dahlan who has so far proven unavailable following travel and home quarantine presently in KL.