Malaysian Submarine Scandal Continues

Asia Sentinel
by Hamish McKenzie
28 April 2010

French Lawyer Looks for Answers for Scandal in Kuala Lumpur

Joseph Breham, one of a team of lawyers looking into allegations of corruption in a Malaysian submarine purchase from a French defense conglomerate, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday that he had filed a 10-page inquiry with the French courts that calls into question the actions of a company with close ties to the Malaysian Prime Minister’s best friend and aide, Abdul Razak Baginda.

Breham is also expected to question several witnesses in Kuala Lumpur about the case, which has broken into the open after years of silence in Malaysia. The inquiry, which now rests with independent French prosecutors, is directed at a €114 million (US$151.1 million) commission paid to a company called Perimekar, which Breham’s legal team suggests was established in 2001 purely for the purpose of receiving the kickback. Najib Tun Razak, then Malaysia’s defense minister, led the negotiations with the French government to buy the two Scorpene-class submarines, build by Armaris, a subsidary of the French defense giant DCN, and to lease a third a few months later, in 2002.

Political reformers in Malaysia say they are placing their hopes on the French investigation to get to the bottom of the payment to Perimekar and its implications because, they say, there is little hope that the Malaysian justice system will bring the truth to light. Despite repeated requests for information by opposition leaders in Malaysia’s parliament, Najib and other top members of the government have refused to answer.

Cynthia Gabrial, who sits on the board of directors of the human rights NGO Suaram, for whom Breham and his colleagues are acting, told Asia Sentinel that “whoever’s guilty must be punished, and if it has the be the French court system that actually brings this issue to surface, then so be it.”

It isn’t likely that anybody will get any answers soon, however. The Perimekar episode goes well beyond Malaysia and is believed to be just a part of years of peddling defense equipment including submarines to countries across the globe by DCN.

Investigating judges looking into some parts of the French establishment have been stalled for years by their inability to obtain defense secrets, partly because of a suspicion that they are related to top figures in French politics. In the past allegations have arisen that sought to ensnare such figures as Edouard Balladur, who ran against President Jacques Chirac, and Nicholas Sarkozy, now the French president, who was Balladur’s campaign manager.

Perimekar, according to the Malaysian government, was paid by DCN for “coordination and support services” during the submarine negotiations. But Breham and Suaram say it’s highly unlikely the company had the ability to carry out such a role.

“Perimekar was created only in 2001, a few months before the submarine contract was definitely signed,” Breham told the press conference. “This means that Perimekar has no experience at all in submarine deals, has no experience in logistics, has no experience in nothing regarding submarines.”

“Perimekar until this contract had never had any contract with any company. The only thing Perimekar had done until this signature of the €114 million contract was lose RM75,000 (US$23,310) in 2002. That was the only thing Perimekar had ever done,” Breham said.

Breham said the French prosecution is particularly concerned about the fact that Razak Baginda’s wife, Mazalinda, was the principal shareholder of KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd, which owned Perimekar. He said he hopes the inquiry will answer where the money for the commission came from, where exactly the money went, and if the money stayed in Malaysia.

Perimekar appears to have been subsumed into another company, Boustead DCNS, a joinrbenture between Boustead’s parent company and DCNS, SA, the Frnch defense company. In its annual report, Boustead Heavy Industries described Perimekar as an “associate of the Group” that is “involved in the marketing, upgrading, maintenance and related services for the Malaysian maritime defence industry.”

The inquiry is now at a preliminary stage, Breham said. If the French prosecution finds that the questionable elements surrounding the commission payment to Perimekar warrant further investigation, it will pass the case on to an ‘instruction judge’ who will conduct a deeper inquiry that could last for years. For instance, a similar corruption case involving DCN and the sale of frigate to Taiwan has dragged on for more than 10 years, Breham said. Then, if the judicial power believes there is sufficient evidence of corruption, the case will move to trial phase.

The scandal began to come to the surface in 2006 with the gruesome murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian translator and spurned lover of Razak Baginda who had accompanied him to France for some of the transactions over the submarines. Altantuya was shot in the head and her body was blown up with military explosives in a patch of jungle outside of Kuala Lumpur. Two of Najib’s bodyguards, who were directed to intercede with her by Musa Safri, Najib’s chief of staff, have been convicted of the killing. Neither Najib nor Musa has ever been questioned by law enforcement officials about the case. Razak Baginda was tried along with Najib’s two bodyguards but was acquitted without having to put on a defense in a trial that left more questions than answers. Immediately after his acquittal, Razak Baginda left the country for England, where he remains.

Breham said the French jurisdiction cannot consider the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu in its investigation. “The only thing that France’s jurisdiction will delve into is corruption.”

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 29 April 2010 - 8:11 am

    You want to know the very sad truth. So what if they found there was corruption under French law – they have no jurisdiction over Perimekar? They will still somehow give the excuse that Perimekar is not guilty or not guilty under Malaysian law.

    When will people learn the system is much too screwed up for things like these to matter..The only thing that will change the system is economic collapse from a system NOT kept afloat by oil money and EPF fund.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Thursday, 29 April 2010 - 8:41 am

    I wonder does Najib have any shame left in his conscience.
    I wonder does Najib values dignity in life.
    The French government have activated the submarine scandal.
    They have few mysterious deaths they want to check on…besides the huge “commission” .
    No matter how hard the French works…the fact is…they cannot summon Najib to testify anything….but if Najib refuses to co-operate…the International laws will support the French government and should arrest Najib…on sight…if he travels abroad.
    The French expected it will take 10 years to solve the case…and that’s much too long for Malaysians.
    People Power will vote for change in government and the job much faster.
    However..should PR fails to win the 13th GE…then what the French are giving extra hopes and charity to Malaysians…for truth to win it all.

  3. #3 by Chengho on Thursday, 29 April 2010 - 8:42 am

    What a smart ass in securing million-dollar submarines cannot dive? Pigs can talk to or like me! The Malaysia Twin Towers, Petronas Towers, are going to collapse soon…

  4. #4 by k1980 on Thursday, 29 April 2010 - 8:51 am

  5. #5 by Yee Siew Wah on Thursday, 29 April 2010 - 10:29 am

    Hope the french guys dig deeper into this scandal including the brutal murder of the Mongolian lady.
    After all she was also involved in the dealings.
    Now we have that Razak Baginder and his cronies out there enjoying all the ill gotten $$$$$$$$$$$.
    What about our PM and his wife who have been implicated in this scandaL??
    The french team must bring out the truth and justice to the whole rakyat of Malaysia.
    Nobody here dare or care to help us to bring out the truth.

  6. #6 by boh-liao on Thursday, 29 April 2010 - 10:43 am

    NR: What scandal? Do u mean sandals?
    Everything was done properly in accordance 2 UmnoB’s SOP
    Y, jealous over Mazalinda n Razak Baginda’s wealth ah?
    This is UmnoB’s way of spreading wealth 2 deserving n connected Malays
    Want quick n easy $$$, come join UmnoB lah
    $$$$, wine, women, men, n songs – all can b arranged, no problemo, just join UmnoB lah

  7. #7 by dagen on Thursday, 29 April 2010 - 12:11 pm

    Something similar in taiwan huh, k1980? Taiwan has a fantastically free press. Journalists will surely go to town with such news. Politicians will get goreng-ed by the media. In jibbyland the press … Oh WTF. I shall not waste any time talking about press freedom in jibbyland. Just one word. Phark.

    And look jib coughed out the 3m cheque under his (pm’s) special projects fund. There the crime of corruption was completed. The intention to commit bribery was expressed during HS campaigning (mens rea). The act of bribing was done yesterday (actus reus) with the handing over of the bribery money (the cheque).

    Oi perkasa. U tengah tidur ke?

    Jib Jib Boleh.

    How many Irish does it take to change a light bulb? How many umno bigwigs does it take and how much did they spend to garner 1700 majority votes in a by-election?

  8. #8 by DCLXVI on Thursday, 29 April 2010 - 1:40 pm

    Merci, Monsieur le Breham. Exposer les criminels meurtriers. Intenter des poursuites eux au tribunal.

  9. #9 by k1980 on Thursday, 29 April 2010 - 1:56 pm

    Monsieur le Breham, vous regarder de l’autre si un million d’euros sont déposés dans votre accont banque?

    Sincèrement, Rakz

  10. #10 by Voter get Voters campaign for PR on Thursday, 29 April 2010 - 5:02 pm

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    Its we the commentators and readers of MT who are to blame if we dun do anything about it except to complained at best.
    For FREE ” VOTER-get-VOTERS ” stickers, email me your postal address to voter-get-voters @ hotmail. com or sms 017-3740176. or collect from me at Low Yat Plaza, Lot10,Times Sq any monday to thurs betw 12 to 7PM

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