French Lawyers Seek Malaysian PM Najib to Testify in Sub Scandal

Highly doubtful that is going to happen, though

(Asia Sentinel) – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his onetime close friend Abdul Razak Baginda are the “priority witnesses” in an investigation into bribes and kickbacks amounting to about €150 million in the sale of Scorpene submarines to the Malaysian Ministry of Defense, French lawyer Apoline Cagnat told a press conference in Singapore today. 

Cagnat is a member of the Paris-based firm headed by William Bourdon, which has been retained by the Malaysian human rights NGO Suaram in a probe by the French judiciary. 

Cagnat told a briefing for Malaysian parliamentarians in Singapore that, of the seven witnesses submitted by Suaram and accepted by the French judiciary, Najib and Razak are the most important. 

It is highly unlikely, however, that the French authorities probing the scandal would be able to persuade the head of a sovereign state, especially one who is suspected of helping to facilitate the transfer of kickbacks to the United Malays National Organization, the biggest party in the ruling national coalition, to testify. It is also difficult to imagine what they would be willing to add to the dialogue about the case if indeed they were called to testify. And, although threats of subpoenas have been made in the past, there was no indication in Cagnat’s comments that they are being issued. 

Nonetheless, “I hope the judges manage to interrogate them,” Cagnat told reporters. Cagnat gave her press conference in Singapore after Suaram said it was unable to obtain an assurance from the government that it would guarantee the security of the French lawyers, who had been asked by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim to brief parliament on the case. The speaker of the parliament, Amin Mulia, said he wouldn’t allow the briefing to take place in Parliament’s compound. 

The other five witnesses are the current Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi , Setev Shaariibuu, the father of murdered Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu, private investigator P Balasubramaniam, Boustead Holdings Bhd group managing director and deputy chairperson Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, and Jasbir Singh Chahl, said to be Razak’s right-hand man but who fell out with the onetime security consultant and threatened suit because he reportedly didn’t get a big enough share of the commission paid on the submarines. 

Bourdon himself was bundled out of Malaysia by immigration authorities in July of 2011 after giving details of the alleged scandal in a speech in Penang to hundreds of people at a fundraiser to continue his investigation. Scheduled to give two more speeches in Malaysia, Bourdon was taken off a flight at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and was put on another plane out of the country over his protests. 

Bourdon and Suaram have been battered by both the mainstream press, which is largely government-owned, and an army of bloggers who say the scandal has been overblown and that no trial had been ordered by French authorities. Neither Bourdon, Suaram nor Asia Sentinel, which has reported extensively on the case, have ever said a trial was imminent. But the investigation is continuing and investigating magistrates have been appointed by the French courts. Two investigating judges, Serge Tournaire and Roger Le Loire, were appointed in March to investigate the case. They have broad powers to investigate independently and can call witnesses and conduct international surveys. 

French police acting on a request from Bourdon’s legal team raided the headquarters of the state-owned defense giant DCN and its subsidiaries and came up with a wealth of detail that enmeshed former French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, current Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and a host of others in the scandal, as well as top officials with DCN. 

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