Document D54 is a statement by the French police submitted to the court that there are no records of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Razak Baginda and/or Najib Tun Razak ever having entered France from 1999, the date the Scorpene submarines were first negotiated, until the day Altantuya was reported murdered. The French immigration authorities and the French intelligence services also confirmed the same.THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
There appears to be some confusion as to what is currently going on in Paris. We are being told that there is an on-going trial in Paris and that the French police are about to arrest and extradite Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to France to face charges and whatnot. This sounds like a Manuel Noriega of Panama episode all over again. Are we going to see a planeload of French commandos parachuting into Putrajaya to whisk Najib out of bed?
Actually, this is not an open court hearing but merely an application by Suaram who filed a criminal complaint, together with an application to join the proceedings as a civil party -- Civil Party Petition -- before a judge in chambers. The judge will first have to look through the evidence and determine whether a crime has been committed before ordering a trial.
Based on Suaram’s application, the prosecutor ordered the Tribunal De Grande Instance in Paris to investigate the allegations of impropriety in the submarine contract. The result of this police investigation runs into hundreds of pages from D1 to D153, which you can read below.
The idea to initiate a campaign to keep the Scorpene submarines issue alive until the 13th General Election was mooted by R. Sivarasa and Tian Chua some time back in 2009. Sivarasa and Tian Chua discussed the matter with Anwar Ibrahim who decided that Suaram would be the best vehicle to use to initiate the action.
French lawyers were then engaged to act on behalf of Suaram to apply to the French court for a probe to be conducted on all the companies and personalities involved in the submarines contract. This was a sort of ‘class action suit’ to be taken by Suaram but Suaram had to first convince the court that it had locus standi on the matter. Suaram was presented to the court as an international NGO similar in status to Amnesty International whose job is to uphold democracy and human rights. This pleading to the court can be seen in the first document, document D1, below.
Most of the police investigation reports submitted to the court were quite routine in nature, touching on the background of all the French and Malaysian companies involved in the contract plus the role of the various personalities from these companies, including tracking the money trail. It traces the history of the entire transaction to the present day and it explores whether there are any criminal elements in how the transaction was conducted.
Suaram placed a lot of emphasis on Altantuya Shaariibuu and her role as translator in this transaction. Altantuya, Razak Baginda and Najib Tun Razak were reported to have travelled to France together to negotiate the contract. While the French police investigation did not reveal Altantuya’s involvement, it did, however, raise many questions as to the conduct of the Scorpene submarine contract.
There is a suspicion that this contract was being used as a means to raise funds for Umno through nominees who were acting on behalf of the Malaysian government. It also appears that the Malaysian government insisted that the French deal (reluctantly, according to the French police) through these appointed nominees and not on a direct G-to-G basis.
Document D54 is a statement by the French police submitted to the court that there are no records of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Razak Baginda and/or Najib Tun Razak ever having entered France from 1999, the date the Scorpene submarines were first negotiated, until the day Altantuya was reported murdered. The French immigration authorities and the French intelligence services also confirmed the same.
Hence the story that Altantuya, Razak and Najib had dinner in Paris where their photograph was taken cannot be confirmed. There is, however, a report in document D146 that a dinner was supposed to have been organised in Paris between Razak Baginda and Najib Tun Razak in June 2000 plus a later report that says Razak and Najib visited the DCNI office. Nevertheless, there appears to be no immigration records to confirm this as well.
In 2007, photographs of Altantuya taken in Paris were published in Asia Sentinel. It seems these photographs were not included in the French police investigation. The date the photographs were taken also cannot be confirmed. Razak Baginda was supposed to have met Altantuya in 2004 so whether these photographs were taken during the period 2004-2006 or before that has not been determined and is not part of the French police investigation.
Document D76 presented to the court is a statement to the police by Fredric Faura regarding his role in the submarine contract. The police had asked him whether he had ever met Altantuya or knows who she is and he replied that he had never met her or knows of her. He added that they do not need any translator to transact business with Malaysians since Malaysians can all speak perfect English.
Furthermore, according to Fredric Faura, all the negotiations were done in Malaysia and not in France. So there was no need for a translator. Also, according to the French intelligence services report, Altantuya did not speak French, so that would have made it impossible for her to act as an English-French translator even if they did need one. The French intelligence services say she spoke Russian, though, and they suspect she was working for the Russians.
Suaram submitted a list of names to the French court that includes, amongst others, the name of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. The court is yet to determine whether these names are relevant to the case and whether their statement needs to be recorded by the French police.
According to Suaram, at this stage, only one name has been confirmed, that of Jasbir Singh Chahl, who is reported as being the first Malaysian to be subpoenaed as a witness in the Scorpene case. Nevertheless, Jasbir has denied receiving a subpoena although he did tell the French police in the report to the court that he has never met Altantuya and that she was not involved in the submarine negotiations.
For that matter, it has also been revealed in the police investigation report to the court that not only Najib Tun Razak but also Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi were involved in the Scorpene submarines matter as Prime Ministers in 1999 and 2003 respectively. However, Dr Mahathir’s and Abdullah Badawi’s names are not in that list of people to be called that Suaram sent to the court, apparently because the main target of Suaram is just Najib.
The impression given is that the French police are ‘looking’ for Najib or are about to issue a warrant of arrest to drag Najib to court. This is not true although he has been named as a crucial party to the deal. Thus far, there is no tangible evidence to link Najib to any corrupt act involving this contract. Ultimately, though, it will be up to the judge to decide whether Najib’s testimony is required.
Two critical elements in this entire police investigation are whether there was anything illegal in the Scorpene submarine transaction and whether Altantuya was involved in the matter. This appears to be the angle that Suaram is working on. Thus far, the French police investigation and the report to the court show that there is no evidence of anything illegal other than a suspicion that Razak was a nominee and not a beneficiary. The police investigation does, however, show that the OECD convention against corruption has been ‘bypassed’. But whether this was illegal or not is still open ended and no conclusion has been made.
The conclusion would be that many questions have been raised by this investigation and who are the nominees and who are the ultimate beneficiaries to the commissions paid will need to be established by the investigation. This investigation has actually raised more questions than provided answers and probably many more statements will need to be recorded from various people, which may take some time, before a final decision is made as to whether this needs to go to the next level of a proper court hearing.
It must be noted that the Malaysian government has never denied this episode and the then Deputy Minister of Defence, Zainal Abidin Zin, told the Malaysian Parliament of the existence of the contract and confirmed the payment of 114 million euros to Perimekar as a normal business transaction and not in violation of any laws. "The government admits it has signed a contract with the company worth Euro 114 million for coordination and support services," Deputy Defence Minister Zainal Abidin Zin told the Dewan Rakyat on 6th December 2006.
Hence the French court needs to now establish whether this payment of 114 million euros is legal or whether it was in violation of any laws. Whether Perimekar is a front company for Umno and was acting as Umno’s nominee and whether the money eventually went back to Umno will be the focus of the French investigation. However, this may be very difficult to prove unless Umno itself confirms that it was the beneficiary to the commission.
What is puzzling is why is the focus of this investigation just on Najib and not also on Dr Mahathir and Abdullah Badawi? This submarine deal was started in 1999 when Dr Mahathir was the Prime Minister and it continued through Abdullah Badawi’s watch right until now. Hence three Prime Ministers are implicated in this matter, as what the French police investigation has revealed. Hence, also, if a crime has been committed then three Malaysian Prime Ministers would be guilty of this crime.
It looks like, in the end, the French court investigation will be reduced to the matter of the payment of the commission and whether this payment is illegal or not. However, since the Malaysian Parliament has been told about the payment -- and that it is not ‘commission’ on the submarines but payment for ‘coordination and support services’ -- would the French court then still declare that this payment is illegal? Would this not then open the entire Malaysian Parliament to a criminal charge?
Whatever it may be, this is going to be a long drawn affair and it may take many more years before we get to see the end of the story. One important point to note is that the judge has a reputation of being very stubborn and is known to not let up and who will see this to the end. It is also said that the judge has a reputation of not succumbing to political pressure. Hence we can expect to see this matter pursued relentlessly to the end.
But what ‘the end’ is going to be is too early to say. The payment of the commission (or for coordination and support services) may have violated French laws. But if it did not violate Malaysian laws then how is the French court going to take this matter to the next level? Defence contracts have always been most lucrative for the western arms suppliers. And it is known that defence contracts attract huge commission payments. Is this not how Adnan Khashoggi made his living?
Will the French want to jeopardise its very lucrative arms industry by taking a foreign leader to court and if they do would this then mean the death of the French arms industry? This is something that the French government has to consider. If foreign governments no longer feel safe dealing with the French, this may mean that the buyers would abandon France for other ‘safer’ countries that do not ‘punish’ their buyers after doing a deal.