Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Scorpenes, Altantuya to make waves in France when open court starts
Malaysian civil rights group SUARAM expects its corruption lawsuit filed against French naval arms firm DCNS to move into open court and hearings to begin in May or June.
This will pave the way for Malaysians to finally get access to details of a highly questionable RM6.7billion ringgit submarines deal entered into by their defense ministry in 2002, and kept top secret by Prime Minister Najib Razak.
DCNS was the vendor of the submarines and Najib has been accused of benefiting his close friend Razak Baginda with a 114 million euros commission in the deal.
“There is substantial evidence of corruption and some of it is new information of new corruption uncovered during investigation. Some of this could be sensitive or embarrassing to the Malaysian government but that is part of the process of helping Malaysian taxpayers recover their money lost through corrupt deals,” SUARAM board member Cynthia Gabriel told Malaysia Chronicle.
SUARAM had in December 2009 filed an initial suit against DCNS at the Paris courts for “active and passive corruption, trading of favours and abuse of corporate assets” after failing to make any headway with the Malaysian government, which refused to impart any details despite constant grilling by opposition lawmakers in Parliament.
The deal agreed between Najib, who was then the Defense minister, and DCNS involved the sale of two Scorpene and one Agosta submarines to the Malaysian government.
Under the 2000 OECD convention of which France is a party, anyone French individual or company found to be involved in corrupt deals with foreign governments can be punished with 10 years imprisonment and a Euro 150,000 fine. This ruling provided the impetus for the SUARAM move to try and recover taxpayers’ money lost through improper transactions.
“We have already applied for an investigate judge to preside at the open court. This will make the hearings more independent and we will certainly be pressing him to order further and more detailed investigations,” said Cynthia.
Indeed, a French government-appointed judge may be less neutral given that the influential DCNS is one of France’s largest firms.
The Altantuya sex and C4 murder
A sensational aspect of this high-stakes deal is the murder of 28-year old Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu, a translator and intermediary who allegedly acted a a go-between for Razak Baginda and the French firm. She was killed in Kuala Lumpur with C4 explosives in a jungle clearing in Shah Alam after she purportedly tried to pester Baginda for her share of the commission.
Two of Najib’s former bodyguards have been sentenced to hang for her killing but their court trial has been slammed as unfair. The former cops claimed they had been paid RM100,000 to kill Altantuya but this testimony was rejected by the Malaysian trial judge, who also warded off all attempts by defense counsels to ask the accused, who had ordered them to kill Altantuya.
French newspaper La Liberation has reported that the beautiful Altantuya, who could speak 4 languages including Russian, had told the two assassins she was pregant and had pleaded for her life before they shot her in the head, wrapped the C4 around her body and then detonated the explosives that are available only to the military in Malaysia.
A private investigator hired by Baginda has stated that it was Najib who met Altantuya at a diamond show in Singapore, and they had an affair before he ‘passed’ her over to Baginda.
But while Altantuya will feature in the French trial, the greater portion of the hearings will be centred on the submarines and the costing of the transactions between DCNS and the Malaysian government.
2.5million euros just for Razak Baginda’s and Altantuya’s travels
Among witnesses may be former DCNS administration and financial manager, Gérard-Philippe Menayas, who had been questioned by French police involving a similar case in Pakistan. Gerard has admitted having evidence to substantiate the kickbacks involved in the Malaysian deal.
Initially, it was suspected that Amaris, a subsidiary of DCNS and Thalès, had paid the 114 million euros commission to a Malaysian company called Perimekar, which headed by Baginda’s wife..
However, the latest information show that it was not Armaris but the Malaysian government which paid the 114 million euros to Perimeka,r so as to enable the French firm to circumvent the OECD convention.
It is worth noting that this contrasts with the explanation given by deputy Defense minister Zainal Abidin Zin to Parliament in 2006 in which Zainal had said it was the Malaysian government which had paid a US$100 million commission for the deal to buy three submarines.
Meanwhile, two new pieces of evidence that have been uncovered include a payment of 30million euros by DCNS to its one of its own units and a 2.5million euros payment to a still-unidentified intermediary.
“Our investigators are still probing the intermediary but we have found out that a company called Gifen was established in Malta by one Jean-Marie Boivin to facilitate monetary transfers for the purpose of financing Baginda’s and Altantuya’s travels,” Gabriel added.
– Malaysia Chronicle