Malaysia

Scorpene deal heads for French court

By Clara Chooi

May 30, 2011

Suaram leaders told a press conference today that its December 2009 suit against DCNS, the French makers of the Scorpene submarine, was nearing the end of its inquiry stage and its lawyers in France were confident they had enough evidence to move into full trial.

Cynthia Gabriel, a Suaram director, announced that an application had already been filed in March this year to a French court for an instruction judge and if evidence was sufficient, the case would be brought for trial in open court.

She said this meant that top Malaysian officials, particularly the Defence Ministry and those involved in the 2002 procurement, said to cost RM6.7 billion, could be summoned as witnesses in the trial.

In a statement yesterday, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi said he was prepared to testify in court, provided that Cabinet gives him the green light to do so. He can decline to make a court appearance.

“Once open trial is called and witnesses subpoenaed, the contract documents that we have been trying to obtain will then be made available to Suaram and other interested groups,” said Gabriel.

She explained that Suaram’s case questions the alleged payment of €114 million (RM500 million) in commission to Perimekar Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd, of which the wife of Najib’s (picture) aide Abdul Razak Baginda is a principal shareholder.

As such, she added, the case could also open up a can of worms as it could shed more light on the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaaribuu, who was Abdul Razak’s jilted lover at the time.

The gruesome murder in 2006 has been often linked by the opposition and critics of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government to the multibillion ringgit Scorpene deal.

“A few things were also discovered through the findings of our lawyers in France. We were informed that it was not just €114 that was paid out, but there were also two more commissions paid in relation to the sale — €30 million paid to Thales, a French shipping company, and another €2.5 million to unknown recipients, through dubious means.

“They chose a small, Mediterranean country — Malta — to disburse the funds through a company called Gifen. There were also payouts discovered for air tickets for trips made by Altantuya and Abdul Razak and maybe more,” she said.

Suaram director Dr Kua Kia Soong, who was also at the press conference today, said that judges in the Paris prosecution office have also been probing other corruption charges involving similar submarine deals in France, Pakistan, Taiwan and other countries.

“In fact, Altantuya’s murder is considered small if compared to two other cases involving the French sale of weaponry — in the Karachi case, 11 engineers were killed, and in the sale of frigates to Taiwan, at least two were killed... a father, who was pursuing the case, and his son,” he said.

Kua also urged the Malaysian government to raise to issue in Parliament next month and clarify discrepancies on who had paid the commission to Perimekar — the Malaysian government or the French authorities.

Suaram also launched Ops Scorpene today to raise funds for its legal fees in the case. It will hold two fundraisers — a hi-tea in Penang on July 21 and dinner in Kuala Lumpur on July 23, with French lawyer William Boudon.

Suaram secretariat member Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said the group hoped to raise an initial RM100,000 to foot its legal fees through cheques written out to Suara Insiatif Sdn Bhd or to its Hong Leong Bank account at 0300-0065-200.