Suaram now calls the scandal 'the great Malaysian robbery', saying that the issue has now magnified into a web of lies involving a slew of companies.
KUALA LUMPUR: Investigations by French prosecutors found a document indicating that the then defence minister, Najib Tun Razak, sought a US$1 billion (RM3 billion) “condition” for a meeting between French company DCNI and him in 2001, alleged rights group Suaram.
The sum was said to be for Perimekar Sdn Bhd’s “stay in France.”
At a press conference today, Suaram – which is the complainant in an ongoing French judicial probe into the controversial Scorpene submarines deal – revealed contents from investigation papers which were made available to the NGO.
“We were really shocked to find that one of the documents contained Najib’s name and (he) had placed a condition in writing in France that DCNS (the shipbuilding company that sold the submarines to Malaysia) would need to pay a maximum sum of US$1 billion to Perimekar for their stay in France,” claimed Suaram secretariat member Cynthia Gabriel.
This was revealed in a note faxed from a representative from Thales International Asia (which brokered the deal on behalf of arms manufacturer DCNS – the parent company of DCNI – with Perimekar and the Malaysian government), Francois Dupont, to his bosses.
In the note, entitled “Malaysia/Submarine Project”, Dupont indicated that a meeting with Najib on July 14, 2001 would take place with the abovementioned “condition” but it was not known if the meeting transpired.
Perimekar is directly linked to Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Najib, who was acquitted of abetting in the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu. The murder case was allegedly connected to the submarines deal.
The note in question was obtained by prosecutors on May 28, 2010. It details Dupont’s visits to Malaysia during which he attended negotiation meetings with the Defence Ministry and the management of Perimekar.
“Basically, we’re finding out more about the mechanics of Perimekar, the company that was the recipient of the 114.96 million euros (RM574.8 million) in commissions and kickbacks, and we’re getting more questions than answers,” she said.
‘Great Malaysian robbery’
Gabriel said Suaram currently had “privileged full access” to the French investigators’ 153 investigation papers, which were translated for Suaram by interpreters and lawyers.
However, copies of the investigation papers were not released to the media.
So far, claimed Gabriel, the French investigations led to “unprecedented levels” of discoveries in the case, including the revelation of a “whole slew” of other companies that benefited from “new commissions” or “sweeteners” from the entire procurement process.
Suaram had now termed the whole Scorpene scandal as “the great Malaysian robbery”.
“It is no longer just the 114.96 million euros in commissions to Perimekar… it has magnified into a web of lies involving a slew of companies formed to complicate the concealment of the blatant robbery of Malaysian and French taxperyers’ money,” she said.
Gabriel alleged that more “retro-commissions” had surfaced, allowing for the misuse of bodies such as the pilgrimage funds (Lembaga Tabung Haji) and the military pension funds (Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera).
“The Malaysian and French people have been clearly misled, cheated and robbed of their monies through blatant corruption and mismanagement of funds in the name of national secret and security,” she said.
‘Evolved into criminal investigation’
Meanwhile, Suaram secretariat member and lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said the French judicial probe had now “evolved into a criminal investigation.”
“It would result in criminal prosecution of those involved in this corruption scandal, our French lawyers William Bourdon and Joseph Breham, have said. The parties involved in the scandal would soon be charged in the French criminal court. It’s going to be bigger than it already is now,” she said.
Fadiah said that the judge, Roger Le Loire, had accepted Suaram’s proposed list of seven witnesses, including Najib, Abdul Razak, and current defence minister Abdul Zahid Hamidi.
Other potential witnesses include: private investgator S Balasubramaniam, Altantuya’s father Setev Shariibuu, Razak Baginda’s wife Mazlinda Makhzan, Lodin Wok Kamarudin (both directors of Perimekar) and Jasbir Chahl, as one of the potential middlemen of the deal.
Subpoenas, said Fadiah, would be issued by the judge soon and the witnesses would be called to testify.
Fadiah said that according to French law, the court could take several actions to compel Malaysian witnesses to assist in the inquiry:
1. Judge would issue a subpoena.
2. Once the subpoena is issued, the witness is obliged to appear before the court.
3. If the witness refuses, the court could issue a notice of “mandate d ‘amener” to compell the witness to attend court.
4. If the witness fails to oblige, a warrant of arrest might be issued. This warrant is applicable within French boundaries, and might be internationalised if the judge deems it necessary.
5. A red alert could be sent to Interpol, if the situation warrants, based on the discretionary powers of the judge.
Suaram, said Fadiah, hoped that Malaysian officials would cooperate and assist in the probe as it was simply the “truth” that was being sought by the NGO.
The RM7.3 billion deal to purchase two Scorpene submarines with DCNS and Spainish Navantia was inked in 2002, when Najib was defence minister.
In December 2009, Suaram filed a complaint with the French courts asking for access to information regarding government contracts signed with Perimekar and other information classified as official secrets in Malaysia.
In April 2010, the French courts accepted the request to investigate the claim of corruption for a payment amounting to 114 million euros from DCNS to Perimekar.
Under the French justice system, an investigative judge has the power to perform both as a judge and investigating prosecutor.