KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian police on Thursday said a leader of a political party was behind videos purporting to show a cabinet minister, seen as a potential successor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, engaged in sex with another man.
They did not identify the party or the leader.
The sex tapes, allegedly of Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali, were widely distributed to journalists and politicians via WhatsApp last month.
Sodomy is a crime in Malaysia and Anwar Ibrahim, who Mahathir has named as his successor, spent about a decade in jail under the law on what he said were trumped up charges.
Azmin, who is said to be close to Mahathir, said the videos were a “nefarious plot” to end his career.
“Results of (police) investigation reveal that there is a wicked alliance that is masterminded by a leader of a political party with the intention to shame and destroy the reputation of a certain individual,” police chief Abdul Hamid Bador said in a statement.
Abdul Hamid said the video was probably authentic but that facial recognition tests were “not able to associate the perpetrator in the video with the individual in question”.
The statement did not identify the individual but the headline of the statement referred to the sex video “allegedly involving an individual bearing likeness to a senior cabinet minister”.
The video was produced by parties that were hired with “hundreds of thousands of ringgit”, Abdul Hamid said, referring to Malaysia’s currency.
The sex scandal has deepened rifts within the ruling coalition and raised concerns of a turbulent transition from 94-year-old Mahathir.
Azmin last month said he was convinced the videos were the work of insiders in the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) party, the biggest component of the Pakatan Harapan alliance. Anwar and Azmin are the president and deputy president in PKR.
Anwar has said it was “slander” to suggest he had anything to do with the leaked footage.
Earlier on Thursday, Anwar brushed aside talk of a challenge from Azmin for the premiership and said he had the support needed to become prime minister.
Reporting by Joseph Sipalan and Liz Lee; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Nick Macfie