We call for all believer and defenders of human rights to play their part in the struggle by financially supporting the operations of SUARAM.
By Dr Kua Kia Soong, Director of SUARAM, 30 May 2011
#OpsScorpene Legal Fund-Payee Name: SUARA INISIATIF SDN BHD A/C No:0300 0065 200-Hong Leong Bank
SUARAM’s efforts to probe suspected commissions involved in the submarines purchase in the French courts are starting to bear fruit. The Malaysian courts have failed to shed light on the grisly murder of Altantuya and the reasons for her murder. Although two former bodyguards of the Prime Minister have been charged and sentenced, their motives for the murder have not been probed by the Malaysian court.
SUARAM believes that there is more to the murder of Altantuya and that what is in question is at least RM500 million in commissions associated with the RM7 billion Scorpene submarines deal. This has grave consequences for both Malaysian and French tax payers.
SUARAM applied through its French lawyers as a civil party for a judicial review in November 2009. As Malaysia’s leading human rights organization, it has always fought for human rights and “People before Profits” issues. Furthermore, SUARAM’s latest publication, “Questioning Arms Spending in Malaysia: From Altantuya to Zikorsky” by its director, Dr Kua Kia Soong, gives it the locus standi for filing this petition in the French courts.
This case concerns the sale of two Scorpène submarines and an Agosta submarine to the Malaysian government, a contract worth approximately one billion euros, that was signed in 2002 with the Malaysian DCNS (former DCN, Department of Naval Construction) and Thalès.
The French Inquisitorial Judicial System
Unlike the British (and Malaysian) system, the French inquisitorial system has an examining or investigating judge. The examining judge can conduct investigations into serious crimes or complex enquiries. As members of the judiciary, they are independent of the executive branch. The judge questions witnesses, interrogates suspects, and orders searches or other investigations. The examining judge’s goal is to gather facts, and as such their duty is to look for all the evidence. Both the prosecution and the defence may request the judge to act and may appeal the judge’s decisions before an appellate court.
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, Taiwan and other countries, including Malaysia. Recently, Parisian prosecutors, led by investigating Judges Francoise Besset and Jean-Christophe Hullin, have been investigating allegations involving senior French political figures and the sales of submarines and other weaponry to governments all over the world.
SUARAM’s latest application, once approved by the court, would allow it to become party to the enquiry and have official access to every element of the enquiry, including access to the evidence which allegedly links DCNS to the issuing of commissions to government officials. The case is still at the enquiry phase and the new application is to upgrade it to the “instruction phase” where an investigative judge would be appointed.
Malaysia’s Scorpene Submarines’ Scandal
This scandal involving Malaysia’s purchase of two Scorpene submarines is of concern also to French tax payers because it involves France’s biggest defense conglomerates, the state-owned shipbuilder DCN. DCN’s subsidiary Armaris manufactures the Scorpene submarines sold to Malaysia among other countries.
It has already been brought up in the Malaysian Parliament that €114 million (RM500 million) has been paid to a Malaysia-based company called Perimekar, for “coordination and support services” for the submarines transaction. Perimekar was wholly owned by another company, KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd, which in turn was controlled by Najib’s aide, Razak Baginda. Baginda’s wife Mazlinda was the principal shareholder in this company. Perimekar was registered in 2001, a few months before the signing of the contracts for the sale and the company did not appear to have the financial resources to complete the contract. None of the directors and shareholders of Perimekar have any experience in the construction or maintenance of submarines.
Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28-year-old Mongolian translator and Razak Baginda’s jilted lover, had allegedly participated in negotiations over the purchase of the submarines. By her own admission in a letter found after her death, she was attempting to blackmail Razak Baginda for US$500,000. She was shot in October 2006 and her body was blown up with military explosives by two bodyguards attached to Najib’s office after Razak Baginda went to Najib’s chief of staff, Musa Safri, for help in stopping her demands.
What were Altantuya’s Killers’ Motives?
After being acquitted in November 2008 under questionable circumstances of participating in her murder, Razak Baginda left the country for England. The bodyguards were convicted but no motive was ever established for their actions.
The submarine deal was never brought up in court during the murder trial which saw prosecutors, defense attorneys and the judge judiciously keeping Najib’s name out of the proceedings.
A private detective hired by Razak Baginda to protect him from Altantuya’s advances filed a statutory declaration after the trial indicating that Najib had actually been the victim’s lover and had passed her on to Razak Baginda. He later retracted this story in a second statutory declaration. The detective, P. Balasubramaniam, said later that he was forced to leave Kuala Lumpur. He eventually emerged from hiding in India to say that he had been offered RM5 million (US$1.57 million) by a businessman close to Najib’s wife to leave town. He also said he had met Najib’s younger brother, Nazim and was told to recant his testimony.
Contradictions in Malaysian Government’s Story
From the investigations so far, there appears to be contradictions in the Malaysian government’s side of the story regarding the payment of 114 euros to the Malaysian company Perimekar. The Deputy Minister of Defence had told the Malaysian Parliament that this was paid by the French. According to sources cited by the plaintiffs, it was not the company Armaris that paid 114 million euros to Perimekar, but rather the Malaysian government, “with the sole purpose of circumventing the OECD Convention.”
This contract was signed in 2002 after the OECD Convention came into force in
France in 2000, which punishes corruption of foreign public officials with ten
years’ imprisonment and a 150,000 euro fine. Following this complaint, a
preliminary investigation was conducted by the prosecution: the hearings were made and searches were made at the premises of DCNS and Thalès.
As was the case for contracts won by the DCN for submarines to Pakistan and
frigates to Taiwan, there are increasing suspicions of “reversed commissions” to
French political parties.
After Suaram had filed an initial suit at the Paris court in 2009, the state prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin then opened a preliminary investigation. At the time, it was suspected that a bribe of 114 million euros had been paid by the company Armaris (a subsidiary of DCNI and Thalès) to Malaysian parties through the company Perimekar.
DCN Officer Confirms Commissions
In September 2008, during the course of the Karachi Case also involving DCN, the note books of Gérard-Philippe Menayas, former chief financial officer of DCN, who was indicted in the case, also confirmed the suspicions of hidden commissions. In his memorandum, Menayas mentioned the Malaysian submarine contract as follows:
“Since the entry into force of the OECD Convention regarding the fight against
corruption in September 2000, only two contracts have been signed; the first
with India, and the second with Malaysia in 2002. These two contracts are the
result of commercial actions undertaken prior to the OECD Convention.
Furthermore, they are both suspected of non-compliance with this Convention. I
have evidence to support this”.
Furthermore, it appears there were three commissions instead of one paid for the sale of submarines. In addition to that of 114 million euros, there are two further
instalments, one paid by DCN to the commercial networks of Thalès, for over 30 million euros, corresponding to “commercial fees relating to the negotiation and execution of the contract”. This second commission was paid by Thalès to a recipient, who remains unknown, in order to convince the Malaysian government of the need to conduct additional work. The third commission was for 2.5 million euros.
According to Gerard Philippe Menayas:
“Until the OECD Convention against corruption came into force in France, no
contract for the sale of defence equipment to an emerging country could take
place without the payment of commissions to policy makers (euphemistically
called ‘commercial fees for exports’).”
Finally, according to the complaint filed by the firm Bourdon, Suaram’s lawyer,
the company Gifen, which was established by Jean-Marie Boivin in Malta,
intervened in the negotiations “so as to facilitate the money transfers in this
case”, and particularly finance the trips of Baginda and Altantuya.
SUARAM Appeals for Legal Funds
SUARAM hopes the French justice system will reveal more than what the Malaysian judicial system has failed to deliver so far and will bring justice and closure to the family of Altantuya, and force the French and Malaysian Governments to account to their peoples regarding the commissions on the submarines contract.
When the case goes to the French court, the prosecution can then contact an examining magistrate and the trial can start. SUARAM’s case in the French courts will involve considerable legal fees. Thus far, the French lawyers have offered their services pro bono. When the case proper begins, we will need to afford the necessary legal fees. Thus we are appealing to justice-loving and socially conscious Malaysian tax payers to contribute to this submarine commissions legal fund in order that we can retrieve this RM500 million of questionable commission from the Scorpene submarine deal and shed some light on why Altantuya was murdered.
#OpsScorpene Legal Fund-Payee Name: SUARA INISIATIF SDN BHD A/C No:0300 0065 200-Hong Leong Bank
SUARAM: Press Statement 30 May 2011
Launching of Ops Scorpene
1) SUARAM is a human rights organization, known to speak out fearlessly in defence of human rights, good governance and an open and accountable society. For over 20 years SUARAM has worked to expose corrupt practices, poor governance and champion the rights of people before profits.
2) On the 5th June 2002, the Malaysian Government signed an agreement with French DCNS and Spainish Navantia for the procurement of two Scorpene class submarines. The procurement contract was through direct negotiation with the manufacturing companies, said to be with the service of Perimekar Sdn Bhd. Razak Baginda is the owner of Perimekar.
3) According to the Government explanation, the contract was divided into two parts:
i. Cost of two Scorpene submarines together with the package that covers Integrated Logistic Support and training amounted to Euro 969.15m (however on 14 May 2008, Najib told the Parliament that this part cost Euro 999.15)
ii. Payment to Perimekar Sdn Bhd in the name of “coordination services” for a period of six years, the sum was Euro 114.96m.
iii. With the exchange rate at the time, the cost was equivalent to:
1. Payment for submarine cost between: RM 2.14b (Euro=RM3.2 in 2002) – RM 5.43b (Euro=RM5.6 in 2008) (now Euro=RM4.7)
2. Commission: probably about RM 540m (exchange rate at the time of payment)
4) On 23 December 2009, SUARAM through our networks in France linked up with leading human rights lawyers in France, to file a complaint with the French judicial system, with the hope that a preliminary investigation would be initiated. This was done to enable access to information, to the government contracts signed with PERIMEKAR and other information classified as government secrets in Malaysia.
5) In April 2010, the lawyers representing SUARAM, informed us that the courts had accepted the request to investigate the claim of corruption for a payment amounting to Euro 114 million made as commissions from DCNS to Perimekar.
6) The French, practising the Civil Law system where a judge assumes the role of an inquisitorial and investigative referee, has so far kept the findings of its investigations confidential.
7) Our lawyers however, have informed us that the investigation is coming to an end, and should move to full trial after it decides whether or not there is sufficient evidence to pursue the matter in open court.
8) Ops Scorpene is a fundraiser and awareness campaign to further pursue the case in the French courts as a national issue. It seeks to instil interest amongst Malaysians to question arms spending and transparency in arms procurement of the country.
9) Ops Scorpene aims to get RM100,000 via events planned during the visit of the French lawyers to Malaysia.
10) SUARAM will be organizing two events in Penang and Kuala Lumpur during their visit to give a chance to ordinary citizens and Civil Society Organisations to grasp the facts of the scandal that has shook the nation. At the same time, we are giving the opportunity to the people to play a role in supporting this struggle, by buying tickets to the Hi-Tea event in Penang on the 21st of July, and the dinner in KL on the 23rd of July.
11) The hi-tea will feature a dialogue with the lawyers, NGOs and political parties; while the dinner will feature William Bourdon, a well known French lawyer as keynote speaker. SUARAM secretariat and political leaders will be speaking in response to the information shared by him. There will also be a number of performances and booths for NGOs to get their message and campaign forward.
12) Donations can also be made to SUARAM via cheque or online transfer to Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd, Ac. No: 0300-0065-200, Hong Leong Bank Berhad.
13) SUARAM applauds the Defence Minister Zahid Hamidi for showing his enthusiasm by welcoming the probe by the French courts with open arms. We also thank his acknowledgement of SUARAM as a concerned civil
society non governmental association. However the probe and the case has nothing much to do with his ministry, and especially not him in his ministerial capacity. The commissions were not paid during his time as minister.
Press Statement: 16 May 2011
Sodomy II: The Crumbling Credibility of the Malaysian Judiciary Reaffirmed!
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is most concerned with the outcome of the Kuala Lumpur High Court this morning, where trial judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, has found a prima facie case against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and has ordered him to enter his defence.
Anwar is charged with sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan at the Desa Damansara condominium on June 26, 2008. If found guilty under section 377B of the Penal Code, Anwar could face a jail term of not less than five years and a maximum of 20 years.
SUARAM has expressed concern during the trial with the apparent bias of the court proceedings; which was demonstrated time and again when Anwar’s defence team was denied access to medical reports and other documents, a defendant’s fundamental right to due process.
This led to the ridiculous scenario of doctors, who were being cross-examined by defence lawyers, but who were unable to refer to notes that they had made during the medical examination of Saiful Bukhari, since access to the notes would also have to be granted to the defence.
SUARAM also disagrees with the judge’s acceptance of the testimony of the three doctors; as it is clear that there are clear contradictions in their testimonies; to be the basis that there was indeed penetration, which requires the defence to call its case. But then again the trial judge himself had shown so much inconsistency by reversing his decision, from initially rejecting to accepting the DNA samples obtained from the lockup room where Anwar was detained.
In delivering his decision, the trial judge was reported to have commented on the credibility and truthfulness of the main witness in the case, Saiful Bukhari Azlan. SUARAM is concerned with the judge’s comments as he appears to have prejudged the case before the defence has presented its case. It is laughable that the trial judge would go out of his way to say that Saiful Bukhari was a “credible and truthful witness” when the said witness has given contradictory statements and was even romantically involved with one of the prosecutors in the case.
It is important to note that that the very basis of Anwar’s defence is that there is a political conspiracy to victimise him and as such, illogical and unlikely claims, loopholes in stories and inconsistencies in the testimonies cannot be disregarded and must be given due consideration. SUARAM feels that the judge, in establishing that there is prima facie, had not taken account of these factors.
This morning’s outcome has reconfirmed what SUARAM has repeatedly warned all along; that the courts have become mere puppets to the government of the day, succumbing to political pressures and making biased political decisions instead of legal decisions based on justice and fair play. The credibility of the Malaysian judiciary is further crumbling, as the ruling powers bend over backwards to hold on to their might and strengthen their grip on power.
Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar
Concerns over the Proposed Australia-Malaysia Refugee Transfer Arrangement
For Release: 12 May 2011
The Migration Working Group is deeply concerned to hear about the possibility of a bilateral agreement between Australia and Malaysia in which 800 asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia will be transferred to Malaysia for refugee status determination in return for Australia resettling 4,000 UNHCR-recognised refugees over 4 years.
Australia, as a state party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention) and its 1967 Protocol, should not violate its obligations under the 1951 Convention. It is surprising that Australia would even consider Malaysia as an ally in refugee protection. Malaysia has shown no positive signs of considering accession to the 1951 Convention. Worse still, Malaysia has one of the most appalling records for the abuse, torture and detention of asylum seekers and refugees.
Most asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia live in squalid conditions, poverty and insecurity. Without the formal right to reside and work in Malaysia, most are forced to obtain jobs in the informal economy, where many suffer from violations of labour rights, including unpaid wages and forced labour. They are in constant danger of arrest, detention, punishment for immigration offences (including whipping) and deportation, leading to refoulement. When arrested, they face months of detention in immigration detention depots, many of which are overcrowded and unhygienic with poor sanitation. Refugee children are not provided with access to education.
We are concerned that the 800 asylum seekers transferred to Malaysia will suffer from the same conditions currently faced by asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia. What procedural safeguards and measures will Australia and Malaysia put in place to ensure that the rights of asylum seekers and refugees under the 1951 Convention are protected? How will Australia and Malaysia ensure that they will have access to fair refugee status determination procedures and will not be subject to indefinite detention, punishment for immigration offences, and refoulement? While in Malaysia, will they have the right to reside, to work, and, for children, the right to education?
We urge Australia and Malaysia to live up to their existing human rights obligations as members of the United Nations, and for Malaysia to accede to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol without further delay. Without a domestic legal framework in place for refugee protection that meets the standards of the 1951 Convention, Malaysia should not be considered a safe place for asylum seekers and refugees.
For more information, please contact Daniel Lo, Co-Coordinator of the Migration Working Group at 012 218 6051 (mobile) or [email protected] (email)
Endorsed by the following members of the Migration Working Group:
Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) Asia Pacific
Coalition to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA)
Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM Asia)
Foreign Spouse Support Group (FFSG)
The National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)
Health Equity Initiatives (HEI)
Justice, Peace & Solidarity In Mission Office, Congregation of the Good Shepherd Sisters, Province of Singapore-Malaysia
Lawyers for Liberty (LFL)
Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI)
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC)
Penang Office for Human Development (POHD)
Pusat Kebajikan Good Shepherd (PKGS)
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
About the Migration Working Group:
The Migration Working Group (MWG) is a network of Malaysian civil society groups and individuals who advocate for the rights of migrants, refugees, stateless persons, trafficked persons and foreign spouses.