Scorpene probe: Razak Baginda tops witness list

Céline Boileau | April 20, 2012
The close confidant of PM Najib tops the list of human rights group Suaram's potential witnesses to testify in the French judicial probe.
PARIS: Abdul Razak Baginda’s name topped human rights group Suaram’s list of potential witnesses to testify at the French judicial probe into the controversial Scorpene submarines deal.

The defence analyst, a close confidant of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, was acquitted in abetting the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu, which had been linked to the submarines contract.
The Scorpene deal was inked during Najib’s tenure as defence minister, and both the contract and Altantuya’s murder continue to haunt him despite the premier denying any wrongdoing.
Yesterday, Judge Roger Le Loire heard the testimonies of three Suaram members, Kua Kia Soong, Cynthia Gabriel and Fadiah Nadwa, at the Tribunal de Grande Instance.

The hearing had been recorded and would be kept confidential.
Gabriel said, after the hearing, that Suaram’s complaint was linked to the outcome of the Altantuya case.
“The case didn’t give us any answer and no answer had been given to Parliament on the suspected payment of a commission related to the Scorpene deal.

“Our own anti-corruption commission (MACC) didn’t pursue the matter and the Malaysian law is so strict on what is classified as Confidential Defence that we can’t even see the contract,” she said.
As Suaram joined the proceedings as a civil party, the human rights NGO, through its lawyers, would from now on work closely with the two judges.

After Suaram’s complaint was motivated, Le Loire then posed questions to the trio based on the previous prosecutors’ inquiry.
The third part of the hearing was dedicated to the potential witnesses.
In naming Razak Baginda, Suaram said the former’s role should be further investigated as he appeared to have a strategic position in the deal.

In the press statement, Suaram revealed that the other potential witnesses would be Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, private investgator S Balasubramaniam and Altantuya’s father Setev Shariibuu.
Also to be called are Razak Baginda’s wife Mazlinda Makhzan and Lodin Wok Kamarudin, both directors of Perimekar Sdn Bhd, one of the companies named in the deal, and Jasbir Chahl, as one of the potential middlemen of the deal.

For French lawyer Joseph Breham, who was also present at the hearing, this was the first step of a promising inquiry that should be able to shed light on the recipients of assumed kickbacks, in France or abroad.

Breham and two others, in representing Suaram, had filed the complaint in the Paris court regarding the deal.
Judge Le Loire is also known in France for covering the Karachi case (a sale of submarines to Pakistan that ended up in the death of 11 French people).

Celine Boileau is a Paris-based freelance writer.

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