French lawyers acting for SUARAM are due to come to Kuala Lumpur in late June or July to brief their client on the latest development in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s high-cost purchase of three submarines from European arms-maker DCNS.
SUARAM had on behalf of Malaysian taxpayers filed a suit against DCNS in December 2009 at the courts in Paris for “active and passive corruption, trading of favours and abuse of corporate assets”.
The civil rights group had been concerned there was ‘hanky-panky’ in the deal, the cost of which would ultimately have to be borne by Malaysian taxpayers. SUARAM suspected kickbacks worth hundreds of millions of ringgit had been hidden in the transaction and called on the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission to investigate, but to no avail.
Also, despite constant grilling, Najib has kept the details of the transaction top secret while other members of his administration have provided only fuzzy details, even to Parliament.
“The lawyers are due to arrive and brief their client on the latest ahead of the hearing which will take place in open court. Once that happens, you can imagine what is next. Everyone will be very busy and the international media will be all over the place,” the source told Malaysia Chronicle.
A Parisian court is due to hear the case and a hearing date was initially slated for May-June, but that may now have to be slightly delayed as SUARAM is applying for an investigative judge to preside.
Briefings at various venues
It is not clear if the lawyers coming to KL will include Joseph Breham who came last year. But according to the source, the French team will also give several briefings to concerned citizens at various venues throughout the nation.
There is enormous public interest in the case, not only because intertwined into the submarines acquisition was a murder most foul, but because the purchase was deemed to be extremely overpriced. There is also concern that the 2 Scorpenes do not work properly as in the weeks after arrival last year, they failed to dive. The third submarine is a second-hand Agosta.
Apart from that, when Najib first mooted the purchase in the early 2000s, Malaysians had protested, arguing that the submarines were not suitable for guarding the nation’s shallow coastline and the cost was also unjustifiable.
But the BN government hammered the deal through, and so far, it has cost Malaysia at least RM6.7 billion ringgit, excluding add-on service fees which could push the total acquisition package to above RM10 billion in the next few years.
The deal had been sanctioned by Najib – who was then Defense minister. He was accused of benefiting his close friend Razak Baginda with a 114 million euros commission.
The Malaysian prime minister and his wife Rosmah Mansor were also accused of being involved in the murder of a Mongolian translator, who had helped in the communications with DCNS. The 28-year old Altantuya Shaariibuu was murdered in KL by two former bodguards of the Malaysian first couple.
Both men, who were members of an elite police squad, have been sentenced to hang but the nation is unconvinced as they had no motive to kill her. The question still raging in Malaysia is, who ordered the killing?
The Parisian hearing will not dwell on the Altantuya murder but DCNS is likely to be grilled on her role in the deal.
Altantuya, who was shot in head and exploded with military C4 explosives, has become an international icon symbolising the ruthlessness and desperation in the murky world of international arms wheeling-and-dealing. She is also a reflection of the level of debauchery amongst the Umno elite. Umno is Najib’s party and has ruled Malaysia for 5 decades.
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. – Malaysia Chronicle