Malaysia

Explain Scorpene lawyer expulsion, Bar tells Putrajaya

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
July 25, 2011

Bourdon was in Malaysia to brief activists on the Scorpene graft probe in France. — Reuters picBourdon was in Malaysia to brief activists on the Scorpene graft probe in France. — Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, Juy 25 — The Bar Council today demanded the government explain the deportation of French lawyer William Bourdon last week, saying Putrajaya’s silence on the matter would only “cement” public opinion that it was linked to the controversial RM7 billion Scorpene submarine deal.

Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee also attacked the reason provided by the Immigration Department, that Bourdon had violated the conditions of his social visit pass, as “vague and wholly inadequate.”

“This obvious imprecision hampers the visitor’s ability to answer the charges levelled against him.

“The lack of specificity is antithetical to the principle of natural justice in administrative law, pursuant to which a clear and explicit basis for the deportation should have been furnished to the visitor, in order that he could have defended himself against any allegation,” he said in a statement today.

Lim cited a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that a person facing possible deportation by the authorities be given an “opportunity” to be heard and that the affected person be given a right to defend himself.

“The veil surrounding this matter merely cements, in the mind of the public, the perception that the French lawyer’s deportation may have arisen as a result of the talk he had given in Penang the previous evening, relating to alleged corruption in the Malaysian government’s purchase of submarines from a French company.

“The Malaysian Bar calls on the government to justify publicly its grounds for deporting the French lawyer, and to cease such arbitrary detention and deportation.  This incident is another negative mark on the government’s record on rights and fundamental liberties, which on this occasion involves a foreigner,” Lim added.

The government has insisted that Bourdon’s deportation was not a political decision, with Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein saying that the French lawyer, who is pursuing judicial investigations in French courts over allegations of kickbacks to a Malaysian company linked to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was sent home to Paris for violating conditions of his tourist visa.

Immigration officers detained Bourdon after boarding the plane in which he arrived on at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport from Penang on Friday.

The purchase of two submarines from French defence company DCNS in 2002 was made when Najib was still defence minister and a company run by Abdul Razak Baginda, said to be a close aide of the then-deputy prime minister, was reported to have received over RM500 million in commission from the deal.

Human rights groups and opposition parties here also linked the episode to the 2006 murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

In December 2009, Suaram filed a complaint with the French courts asking for access to information regarding government contracts signed with Abdul Razak’s Perimekar Sdn Bhd and other information classified as official secrets in Malaysia.

The French courts accepted the request to investigate claims of graft in the RM500 million payment from DCNS to Perimekar.

The case is set to begin in September, once a judge is selected for a hearing that Bourdon and opposition leaders here believe will reveal crucial information pertaining to the deal.