(The Malaysian Insider) - French authorities are probing if money from the Scorpene submarine sale may have been funnelled to Umno officials via a Hong Kong company owned by Abdul Razak Baginda and his father.
Investigators believe that at least some of the €36 million (RM144 million) funnelled through Terasasi (Hong Kong) Ltd to Umno ended up in the pockets of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, The Asia Sentinel reported today.
Najib was defence minister and deputy prime minister when the two submarines were purchased from Thales International or Thint Asia, which formed a joint-venture company Armaris with French defence giant DCNS to build the vessels.
The two Armaris Scorpenes, named for the first prime minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, and Najib’s father, Tun Abdul Razak, are on duty in Malaysian waters.
Abdul Razak Baginda (picture), a former think-tank head who was at the centre of a 2006 investigation into the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, is listed as a director of Terasasi with his father, Abdul Malim Baginda.
The company was previously incorporated on June 28, 2002 as Kinabalu Advisory and Support Services Ltd, according to the Hong Kong Companies Registry.
The Asia Sentinel reported that there was no indication of what Terasasi’s business is but French authorities say it received regular payments from Thint Asia.
This included one payment of €360,000 accompanied with a handwritten note saying “Razak wants it to be paid quickly”.
Magistrates have documents to show money was funnelled from Thint Asia to Terasasi, €3 million when Terasasi was domiciled in Malaysia and €33 million after its incorporation in Hong Kong. There is no indication where this money went.
But French investigators theorise that it was part of €146 million that may have been funnelled to Umno officials and Najib, who as defence minister travelled with Abdul Razak Baginda several times to France to buy the submarines from DCNS.
French authorities believe “it appears that... the amounts paid to Terasasi ultimately benefited Najib, the defence minister, or his adviser Razak Baginda”.
Two years of investigation by French police into the sale of the two Armaris Scorpene submarines culminated recently with the appointment of investigating magistrates at the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance.
The probe involves three contracts which were signed on June 5, 2002 and whether the French defence firms had violated OECD bribery conventions by paying Razak Baginda’s Perimekar Sdn Bhd millions in “commissions”.
The contracts comprise €114 million Putrajaya paid to Perimekar, a “C5 contract of engineering business” between a DCNS subsidiary and Thint Asia worth some €30 million and a “consulting agreement” between Thint Asia and Terasasi.
French magistrates will not be looking into Altantuya’s gruesome murder — which the opposition has persistently linked to Najib — as the killing does not appear to be connected to the scandal.
Two of Najib’s bodyguards were sentenced to death in 2009 for shooting the Mongolian in the head and blowing up her body with plastic explosives in October 2006. They remain on death row awaiting appeal.
Razak Baginda, Altantuya’s ex-lover, was charged with abetting the murder but was released without having to put up a defence. He left the country following the acquittal and now lives in Britain with his family.