Something related to Altantuya
Joseph Brehem, one of the French lawyers suing state defence giant DCNS, today said once the judicial probe into the controversial purchase of two Scorpene submarines by Malaysia is completed, the investigating judge will decide whether it should go to trial.
Brehem, who was in Kuala Lumpur recently to help gather evidence into the RM4.85 billion deal, said he was uncertain when this “preliminary” phase of investigation would be completed.
Under the French judicial system, during this preliminary inquiry stage, an investigating magistrate or judge will lead an inquiry into the complaint to ascertain whether there is a prima facie case before deciding on whether to commit it for trial.
“The case is still in the preliminary stage, which is not a public phase, and no one can have access to the files,” Brehem (right) told Malaysiakini in an email interview.
“This phase can take time – from anything like six months to a year or more, depending on investigations and on the conclusions of the judges,” he added.
Malaysian human rights group Suaram filed a complaint with the Paris Prosecutor’s Office in March, where the latter opened an investigation into the 2002 deal.
The NGO alleged that Armaris – a subsidiary of Thales and DCN, as the DCNS was formerly known – paid a commission of 114 million euros (RM534.8 million) to Malaysian company Perimekar Sdn Bhd.
Top French politician involved?
In 2002, DCN joined Thales and Spanish naval construction group Navantia in signing a contract to sell Malaysia a couple of submarines for around one billion euros (RM3.7 billion).
Premier Najib Razak was then defence minister and was responsible for negotiating the contract, while Perimeker is reportedly owned by the wife of his confidante, Abdul Razak Baginda.
Following Suaram’s complaint, files pertaining to the Malaysian deal were seized by French financial police in a raid on DCNS offices earlier this month.
Payment of commissions on defence contracts amounts to corruption and is punishable under French law.
The subject of commissions for the submarines first surfaced after the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu who allegedly came to Malaysia to seek a cut of the deal from Abdul Razak, as she was said to have acted as translator for the Malaysian side.
Altantuya, who was also Abdul Razak’s mistress, met her untimely death when parts of her body were found scattered in a jungle clearing in Shah Alam in 2006, following which two police personnel were convicted for her murder while Abdul Razak was acquitted of abetment charges.
On Wednesday, Batu MP Tian Chua, who was in Paris to talk to experts in the field, revealed that the only missing link in the case was the identity of a French politician involved in the scandal.
According to Chua, the evidence gathered from the probe into the Malaysian scandal can support the case against DCNS over a Pakistan arms deal, which allegedly prompted an attack that killed 11 French engineers in Karachi eight years ago.
On the involvement of a French politician in the murky deal, Brehem would neither deny nor confirm it, but said “there is yet to be any proof” of the person involved.
French media take interest
Brehem is however upbeat about the outcome of the case as the French media have begun to take an interest in its development due to evidence of alleged corruption.
Meanwhile, Suaram board member Cynthia Gabriel (left) said she and Latheefa Koya, who represents Lawyers for Liberty, were also in Paris to meet with French journalists to explain details and relevance of the case.
Gabriel said French journalists have begun to cast their eyes on the issues following the raid on DCNS files, which was specifically related to Suaram’s complaints.
Suaram plans to launch a nationwide campaign to explain the issue and progress of the case.
“We will keep the public momentum going in Malaysia,” she said, adding civil society groups will come together to highlight the matter.
Yesterday, the Defence Ministry repeated its denial that commissions were paid by any party for the procurement of the Royal Malaysian Navy’s two Scorpene submarines.
Its minister, Zahid Ahmad Hamidi, said in a written parliamentary reply that the government had only made payments to two contractors – France’s DCNS and Spain’s Navantia – for the construction of the submarines.
Perimekar on the other hand, was paid for “coordination services” for the Malaysian submarine crew.