Friday, April 16, 2010

Altantuya's Ghost Re-Emerges in Paris

Malaysia's Submarine Scandal Erupts in France

Written by John Berthelsen
Friday, 16 April 2010

Murky arms deal linked to international pattern of kickbacks

A potentially explosive scandal in Malaysia over the billion-dollar purchase of French submarines, a deal engineered by then-Defense Minister Najib Tun Razak, has broken out of the domestic arena with the filing of a request to investigate bribery and kickbacks from the deal in a Paris court.

Although the case has been contained for eight years in the cozy confines of Malaysia's courts and parliament, which are dominated by the ruling National Coalition, French lawyers William Bourdon, Renaud Semerdjian and Joseph Breham put an end to that when they filed it with Parisian prosecutors on behalf of the Malaysian human rights organization Suaram, which supports good-government causes.

Judges in the Paris Prosecution Office have been probing a wide range of corruption charges involving similar submarine sales and the possibility of bribery and kickbacks to top officials in France, Pakistan and other countries. The Malaysian piece of the puzzle was added in two filings, on Dec. 4, 2009 and Feb. 23 this year.

For two years, Parisian prosecutors, led by investigating judges Francoise Besset Francoise Besset and Jean-Christophe Hullin, have been gingerly investigating allegations involving senior French political figures and the sales of submarines and other weaponry to governments all over the world. French news reports have said the prosecutors have backed away from some of the most serious charges out of concern for the political fallout.

The allegations relate to one of France's biggest defense conglomerates, the state-owned shipbuilder DCN, which merged with the French electronics company Thales in 2005 to become a dominant force in the European defense industry. DCN's subsidiary Armaris is the manufacturer of Scorpene-class diesel submarines sold to India, Pakistan and Malaysia among other countries. All of the contracts, according to the lawyers acting for Suaram, a Malaysian human rights NGO, are said to be suspect.

With Najib having moved on from the defense portfolio he held when the deal was put together in 2002 to become prime minister and head of the country's largest political party, the mess has the potential to become a major liability for the government and the United Malays National Organisation. Given the power of UMNO, it is unlikely the scandal would ever get a complete airing in a Malaysian court, which is presumably why Suaram reached out to French prosecutors.

"The filings are very recent and have so far prompted a preliminary police inquiry on the financial aspects of the deal," said a Paris-based source familiary with France's defense establishment. "There isn't a formal investigation yet. The investigation will most likely use documents seized at DCN in the course of another investigation, focusing on bribes paid by DCN in Pakistan."

Vasset said police have confined their inquiry to bribery allegations so far and have not looked into the 2006 murder of a Mongolian woman in Malaysia who was a translator on the deal for Najib and his friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, during a visit to Paris.

There have been numerous deaths involving DCN defense sales in Taiwan and Pakistan. Prosecutors are suspicious that 11 French submarine engineers who were murdered in a 2002 bomb blast in Karachi – first thought to have been the work of Al Qaeda – were actually killed in retaliation for the fact that the French had reneged on millions of dollars in kickbacks to Pakistani military officers.

The Malaysian allegations revolve around the payment of €114 million to a Malaysia-based company called Perimekar, for support services surrounding the sale of the submarines. Perimekar was wholly owned by another company, KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd, which in turn was controlled by Najib's best friend, Razak Baginda, whose wife Mazalinda, a lawyer and former magistrate, was the principal shareholder, according to the French lawyers.

"Over the past years, serious cases have been investigated in France by judges involving DCN," lawyer Renaud Semerdjian told Asia Sentinel in a telephone interview. "This is not the first case of this kind that is being investigated. There are others in Pakistan and there are some issues about India. To a certain extent, every time weapons of any kind have been provided, suspicion of violation of the law may be very high."

As defense minister from 2000 to 2008, Najib commissioned a huge military buildup to upgrade Malaysia's armed forces, including two submarines from Armaris and the lease of a third, a retired French Navy Agosta-class boat. There were also Sukhoi supersonic fighter jets from Russia and millions of dollars spent on coastal patrol boats. All have come under suspicion by opposition leaders in Malaysia's parliament but UMNO has stifled any investigation. Asked personally about the cases, Najib has responded angrily and refused to reply.

[Read the rest here.]

4 comments:

donplaypuks® said...

Let's hope ALL the shit will hit the fan b4 by-election at HS or at the very least GE 2013 so we can bungkus this illegal regime!

I feel very elated that it's all coming out now and Altantuya might yet get the jutice she deserves!!

You might want to read Din Merican's latest courageous piece as he takes the gloves off re IGP and AG at http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/harapkan-pagar-pagar-makan-padi/

dpp
we are all of 1 race, the Human Race

semuanya OK kot said...

What about the shameless about-turn whereby Iran has become a bad guy? Was there international blackmail involved?

semuanya OK kot said...

Congrats Antares. The page on this article has been singled out for black-out by our moral guardians.

Anonymous said...

BN : pls dun interfere with our internal scandals !!