Wednesday, June 20, 2012

French judges begins bribery probe

Malaysian PM's role in purchase of two French submarines, allegations of extortion and murder under scrutiny

A Paris court of inquiry has started an investigation that may finally link the dots between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, his country's purchase of two French submarines, bribes worth nearly $200 million, and the murder of a Mongolian model by his bodyguards.

The in-camera inquiry by judges Roger Le Loire and Serge Tournaire, who are highly experienced investigators in corruption and human rights cases, will try to discover if the French defence company DCNS and its project partner Thales International paid the bribes to secure the 2002 contract to supply two Scorpene submarines to the Malaysian navy.

Their inquiry will build on two years of investigation and evidence-gathering by French police. The deal was done while Najib was defence minister, and attention is focused on the role played by Najib's close friend and policy adviser, Abdul Razak Baginda.

French officials have let it be known they are especially interested in two payments by the French arms dealers. One was for 114 million euros ($148 million) and went to a Malaysian company called Perimekar for "logistical support." Perimekar was at the time wholly owned by a company which was con-trolled by Razak Baginda and his wife, Mazalinda.