Malaysia: French Authorities Probing Ex-Aide of Najib Razak in Submarine Scandal

Hadi Azmi
Kuala Lumpur
170802-MY-submarine-620.jpg A naval officer watches as Malaysia’s first French-made submarine prepares to dock at its base in Port Klang, near Kuala Lumpur, Sept. 3, 2009.

A former aide to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has come under formal investigation in France as part of a probe into alleged kickbacks from a controversial sale of submarines in 2002, a report said Wednesday.

Abdul Razak Baginda, who was an adviser to Najib when he served as defense minister between 2000 and 2008, was placed under investigation over the nearly one billion-euro (U.S. $1.18 billion) sale of two Scorpene-class submarines by French state-controlled warship builder DCN International to the Malaysian government, Reuters news agency reported.

It did not say when he was placed under probe but Agence France-Presse (AFP), quoting a judicial source, reported a day earlier that Razak Baginda was charged on July 18 with “active and passive complicity in corruption” and “misappropriation of corporate assets.”

On Wednesday, Razak's office in Kuala Lumpur issued a statement expressing regret over what it called “misleading” news reports on the issue and lamenting that “the correct facts of the matter [are] not reported.”

Razak “has not been charged in any court of law in France,” the statement said.

Reuters said that two French former defense industry executives had also been placed under investigation last month as part of the same probe into alleged kickbacks from the submarine deal.

In France, being put under formal investigation means there is serious or consistent evidence that points to likely involvement of a suspect in a crime. It does not necessarily lead to a trial.

Razak's office said the inquiry by the French “is welcomed” because he “has not committed any crime of corruption or breached any laws in the matter.”

A French probe into the sale of the submarines was launched in 2010 after Malaysian human rights group Suaram alleged that the deal had led to some U.S. $130 million in commissions being paid to a company linked to Najib.

The Malaysian government has denied any allegations of corruption concerning the submarine sale.

The submarine sale came under scrutiny in Malaysia following the 2006 murder of Razak’s Mongolian mistress Altantuya Shaariibuu, who allegedly had demanded a payoff for working as a language translator in the deal. She was shot dead and her body blown up with powerful explosives near the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Razak had been acquitted of charges of abetting the murder, of which two of Najib’s bodyguards were found guilty.


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