(The Malaysian Insider) - A French court investigating the multimillion ringgit Scorpene submarine scandal issued its first subpoena to Jasbir Singh Chahl, a director in Malaysian naval support services firm Perimekar Sdn Bhd and not a restaurateur, human rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) said today.
“We have just double-confirmed with our lawyers (picture) that the subpoena has been issued. We don’t have further information on when it will be served,” Cynthia Gabriel, who is on Suaram’s board of directors, told The Malaysian Insider this evening.
She stressed the Jasbir Singh Chahl she was referring to was a Perimekar director and that she was unaware of any other details surrounding his life.
“We are not in contact with the witness,” she said.
Gabriel added that Suaram had been informed about the subpoena last week from their French lawyers, Joseph Breham and William Bourdon and would not have dared make such public statements without being able to substantiate them.
“We were surprised the subpoena had been sent out to the first witness,” she said, noting that the court process tended to be time-consuming affairs.
The prominent activist had come under fire earlier today from one Jasbir Singh Chahl who runs an Indian restaurant, Gills, in the upscale Damansara Heights neighbourhood where Abdul Razak Baginda, a former political analyst and adviser to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, used to live.
The former head of local think-tank Malaysian Strategic Research owned Perimekar, which was reported to have received RM574 million for providing co-ordination and support services to the government in the submarine procurement deal that is now being investigated by a Paris-base court for corruption alongside French defence giant, DCNS.
Malaysia paid RM6.7 billion in 2009 for the two submarines.
Suaram had filed a complaint against DCNS in a French Court in April this year.
Abdul Razak, now believed to be based in Britain, is reportedly being sought as a witness in the French inquiry.
Jasbir the restaurateur had admitted to knowing Abdul Razak but denied he was the man subpoenaed to testify in the French case.
He also demanded Gabriel and Suaram retract their “false and distressing” allegations against him, which he added was a deliberate attempt to undermine his reputation and credibility.
“There aren’t many sharing my name. In fact, I think I am the only one,” Jasbir the restaurateur told The Malaysian Insider when contacted this evening.
“I was never a director of Perimekar,” he stressed.
But he declined to disclose how he knew Abdul Razak when asked, saying he had been advised by his lawyers against furnishing details of their relationship.
Gabriel said she was surprised by the restaurateur’s statement.
“It’s news to me that he’s got a restaurant,” the activist told The Malaysian Insider.
News portal Free Malaysia Today had reported Gabriel calling Jasbir Singh Chahl, the Perimekar director, a “central figure in the negotiation and procurement process” before a 1,000-strong dinner crowd at its fundraiser at the Petaling Jaya Civic Centre on June 15.
The non-government organisation (NGO) had successfully filed a formal complaint with a Paris tribunal in April this year against Malaysia’s failure to address the serious allegations of kickbacks involving government officials, suggesting a deliberate suppression of information to keep the issue under wraps.
Gabriel also claimed that Jasbir had confirmed he would co-operate with the French panel and reveal information on what had transpired in the Scorpene deal from 2002.
Suaram had submitted a long list of potential witnesses when it filed its complaint at the Tribunal Grande instance de Paris on April 19.
Apart from Jasbir Singh Chahl the Perimekar director, Suaram had proposed Abdul Razak; PM Najib; Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi; private investigator P. Balasubramaniam; the father of murdered Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, Dr Setev Shaariibuu; and chief executive of Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT), Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin Lodin, who is also Boustead Holdings Berhad group managing director and deputy chairman.
Abdul Razak had been the late Altantuya’s lover. During her murder trial, he was acquitted of a charge of abetting two Special Action Squad members — Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar — to commit the murder in 2006.
Last April, Setev told a press conference in Petaling Jaya that he had offered himself as a witness in the Scorpene submarine probe, claiming that his testimony would be able to “connect the dots” between her death and the case.