France opens probe into alleged bribery of Malaysia PM in arms deal

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Najib with sunglassesFrench prosecutors announced they launched a formal investigation into whether Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was paid bribes over a $1.2 billion arms deal in 2002 when he was defense minister.

It will be probed whether Bernard Baiocco, former president of French defense group Thales International Asia (today naval defense company DCNS) paid illegal kickbacks to Razak through an associate of the prime minister, Abdul Razak Baginda, to win a contract for two Scorpene submarines.

Baiocco, 72, was already indicted on December 15 for “active bribery of foreign public officials on people including Najib Razak,” according to Agence France Press, quoting judicial sources.

The bribe is said to amount to €114 million which allegedly were paid to a shell company called Perimekar owned by Baginda and then funneled to the United Malays National Organisation, or UMNO, Razak’s party.

All of the involved denied any wrongdoing.

According to the Financial Times, Baginda conceded that he was was paid around 30 million “to consult” on the submarine deal, but the said he “never” bribed officials and no cash found its way to Najib Razak or any other Malaysian government official. The bigger part of “commission” has apparently been paid to a Hong Kong company called Terasasi Ltd, owned by Baginda and his father, the rest to a company of the same name incorporated in Malaysia.

International anti-bribery enforcement database Trace Compendium lists the paid amounts in more detail here.

However, the new probe adds to the pressure Najib Razak is already facing in connection to various scandals revolving around state-owned investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB. Swiss authorities launched investigations into alleged bribery involving former 1MDB officials and said there were “serious indications” that some $4 billion have been misappropriated. Singapore authorities said they have frozen several bank accounts on suspicion of money laundering related to transactions involving 1MDB deals. Furthermore, authorities in the US and Hong Kong are also investigating. And according to latest news, Saudi government is said to be investigating the assertion that the Saudi royal family made a $681 million donation to Najib Razak’s personal accounts, which is felt to be highly unlikely,

The official arms deal probe also brings back to mind the 2006 brutal murder of 28-year-old Mongolian interpreter and photo model Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was said to have been Baginda’s concubine at that time and have acted as a translator in the final stages of the Scorpene deal.

The story goes that she was promised $500,000 her for her role as translator, which she never received, and that she apparently knew about the involved bribes. After trying to blackmail Baginda, she was abducted in Kuala Lumpur, brought to the outskirts of the city, her body wrapped in C4 explosive and blown up. Two of Malaysian government security guards were later found guilty of murder.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

French prosecutors announced they launched a formal investigation into whether Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was paid bribes over a $1.2 billion arms deal in 2002 when he was defense minister.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Najib with sunglassesFrench prosecutors announced they launched a formal investigation into whether Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was paid bribes over a $1.2 billion arms deal in 2002 when he was defense minister.

It will be probed whether Bernard Baiocco, former president of French defense group Thales International Asia (today naval defense company DCNS) paid illegal kickbacks to Razak through an associate of the prime minister, Abdul Razak Baginda, to win a contract for two Scorpene submarines.

Baiocco, 72, was already indicted on December 15 for “active bribery of foreign public officials on people including Najib Razak,” according to Agence France Press, quoting judicial sources.

The bribe is said to amount to €114 million which allegedly were paid to a shell company called Perimekar owned by Baginda and then funneled to the United Malays National Organisation, or UMNO, Razak’s party.

All of the involved denied any wrongdoing.

According to the Financial Times, Baginda conceded that he was was paid around 30 million “to consult” on the submarine deal, but the said he “never” bribed officials and no cash found its way to Najib Razak or any other Malaysian government official. The bigger part of “commission” has apparently been paid to a Hong Kong company called Terasasi Ltd, owned by Baginda and his father, the rest to a company of the same name incorporated in Malaysia.

International anti-bribery enforcement database Trace Compendium lists the paid amounts in more detail here.

However, the new probe adds to the pressure Najib Razak is already facing in connection to various scandals revolving around state-owned investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB. Swiss authorities launched investigations into alleged bribery involving former 1MDB officials and said there were “serious indications” that some $4 billion have been misappropriated. Singapore authorities said they have frozen several bank accounts on suspicion of money laundering related to transactions involving 1MDB deals. Furthermore, authorities in the US and Hong Kong are also investigating. And according to latest news, Saudi government is said to be investigating the assertion that the Saudi royal family made a $681 million donation to Najib Razak’s personal accounts, which is felt to be highly unlikely,

The official arms deal probe also brings back to mind the 2006 brutal murder of 28-year-old Mongolian interpreter and photo model Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was said to have been Baginda’s concubine at that time and have acted as a translator in the final stages of the Scorpene deal.

The story goes that she was promised $500,000 her for her role as translator, which she never received, and that she apparently knew about the involved bribes. After trying to blackmail Baginda, she was abducted in Kuala Lumpur, brought to the outskirts of the city, her body wrapped in C4 explosive and blown up. Two of Malaysian government security guards were later found guilty of murder.

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