Friday, July 22, 2011

Scorpenes French lawyer William Bourdon detained, to be deported

Malaysian authorities have detained and are preparing to deport French lawyer William Bourdon, who is acting on behalf of civil rights group Suaram in a high-profile "corruption" and "kickbacks" case involving Prime Minister Najib Razak over his purchase of two Scorpene submarines for the ministry of defense in the early 2000s.

Bourdon is now at the Immigration detention centre in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where he was grilled for more than 4 hours. He was flying in from Penang, where he had given a briefing on the case to a citizens group of 600 on Thursday night ahead of open-court hearings in Paris in September.

"Najib has just told the world that he is guilty," PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

Another international black-eye

Bourdon was arrested while still inside the airplane cabin by immigation officials who boarded the plane. "He said he is most likely to be deported to Paris tonight," Suaram director Cynthia Gabriel told a press conference. She was allowed to see him briefly.

Given the bizzare actions of a back-to-the-wall Najib administration, deportation is not impossible even though it might seem to be the height of folly.

"This is another self-inflicted blow by the Najib administration, reflecting other phobias - Scorpene submarines and Altantunya," DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang said in an immediate response.

Indeed, the international bruising from the latest incident will only add to the growing conviction that Najib's days in power are numbered. But rather than accepting the calls to step down and paving a smooth path for his successor, he appears to be denial mode and has come out swinging wildly.

Two weeks, ago the Malaysian PM ordered one of the harshest ever crackdowns on a civilians rally for free and fair elections, wherein thousands were injured and one death caused. The high-handed move had alarmed first world leaders, who wondered if it signalled that Najib might go to the extent of installing a police state just to stay in power. The United Nations, United States have issued rebukes for the July 9 Bersih march crackdown, while the British Queen has also signalled her disapproval.

Long brewing

The Scorpenes scandal has long been brewing. From the time it was mooted by Najib, who was then the defense minister, there was public outcry over the deal with French arms vendor DCN, which was seen as excessively priced and the high-tech ships totally unsuitable for patrolling Malaysia's shallow coastline.

But Najib pushed through the RM7 billion deal in 2002 amid accusations that he was benefiting his cronies and despite clear evidence of a dubious 114 million euros side-deal granted to his close friend Razak Baginda.

The eldest son of Malaysia's second prime minister, the late Abdul Razak Hussein, Najib was able to convince his bosses, who were then ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad and to an extent Abdullah Badawi, who became Prime Minister in 2003. They allowed Najib to carry through with the deal and closed an eye to the dubious contract, allthough he was warned that this 'excavation' into public funds would have to be his last.

Hell broke loose in 2006

However, in 2006, all hell broke loose when the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a stunningly beautiful 28-year old Mongolian national, was discovered. Killed in a jungle clearing in Selangor state, lurid details of her downfall and how she died shocked and titillated Malaysians and world citizens.

At that time, no one could get enough news of how she was shot in the head and face, how she told her killers she was pregnant and how she had begged for mercy before they pulled the trigger, and then detonated her body with special military C4 explosives to prevent identification.

It turned out that the killers were two special squad police officers, who were also Najib's former bodyguards. Both men have been sentenced to hang but till now, the buring question remains, who ordered the killing?

Najbi was then the Deputy Prime Minister and still the defense minister. He was still on the political rise and protected by Mahathir who wanted him to take over from Badawi and then pass on the top seat to his own son, Mukhriz Mahathir.

Indeed, power in Malaysia's ruling party, UMNO, is basically confined to three families - Najib's, his cousin Hishammuddin's and Mahathir's. All others including Badawi, his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin and current Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin are appeased with seat-warmer terms. But real power will remain with the three families, thanks to the huge wealth they have hoarded through the years.

Have courage, Malaysians told

On Thursday night, Bourdon had confirmed to Penangites that the French authorities had approved Suaram's request for an investigative judge - a major step forward for their case to uncover the bribes allegedly paid by DCN to top Malaysian officials.

In his presentation on Thursday night, Bourdon did not give details of the latest evidence uncovered by the French police. He was expected to share more details in the second briefing, which is due to be held in Kuala Lumpur tonight and Petaling Jaya on Saturday night,

However, he had promised that Malaysians would get the "truth and justice" they sought. And as if sensing the danger ahead, he even told Malaysians to have courage.

"Despite many obstacles and although such proceedings are complex and difficult, the truth shall emerge in France and we will expose the corruption related to the submarine deal. We will reveal and disclose details on all the beneficiaries. I am confident in Malaysians to overcome difficulties and I wish you courage," William said.

New commissions and a VIP

In the runup to Scorpene briefings, the French lawyer had also said the identites of several 'new' people had been traced.

There was also evidence that a VIP had travelled Baginda and Altantuya to Macau. Speculation is rife that this person was Najib.

Such information would immediately debunk Najib's denials that he ever knew or met her. It could also pave the way for the re-opening of her murder trial, during which a clearly biased trial judge had forbidden questions on whether the two bodyguards had been paid or instructed to kill her. And by whom.

William, who is known for his activism work in the French legal circles, also said that more commission payments have been found. It is illegal in France for a firm to pay commission to anyone to secure a deal. And this why Suaram had lodged its complaint in Paris after failing to make the Malaysian authorities investigate the Scorpenes procurement despite years of trying.

If found guilty, DCN would have to reveal the amounts of illicit funds it paid out to win the Malaysian contract and also the identities of the people who received the kickbacks. This would obviously be very bad news for Najib, especially if the allegations about him deriving hundreds of millions in benefit from the deal are true.

[Source: MC]


Investigations by French authorities into the controversial RM7.3 billion Scorpene submarine deal, which allegedly involves kickbacks to top Malaysian officials, may shed light on the mystery surrounding the death of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Paris-based lawyer William Bourdon, who was in Penang yesterday, said the probe would probably reveal relevant details related to Altantuya's involvement in the purchase of the two French submarines by Malaysia.

NONEPolice investigations have alreadyrevealed that Altantuya and Abdul Razak Baginda, a close confidante of Prime Minister Najib Razak, had been beneficiaries of travel expenses paid by an obscure French company in Malta.

Bourdon (left), who was detained by immigration officers at the KL International Airport upon arriving from Penang about 10.30am today, said he had kept abreast of Altantuya's case since her death in 2006, and had noted that her murder trial had been overly dramatised.

Speaking to Malaysiakini in exclusive interview just hours before he was detained by immigration authorities, who boarded his plane at KLIA this morning, Bourdon said: "The manner in which the trial was conducted provoked many questions; a lot of obscurity remains regarding her murder."

The trial ended in 2008 with two of the bodyguards of Najib, who was then deputy prime minister and defence minister, being convicted of her murder.

The duo are currently appealing their death sentence. Abdul Razak, who had been charged with abetting the duo, was acquitted without being called to make his defence.

altantuya razak baginda mongolian murder 020707 short hairObservers had remarked that despite the high-profile trial, two pertinent questions surrounding Altantuya's murder were yet to be answered: why was she killed and who ordered her killing?

Najib, who as defence minister was in charge of the mega-Scorpene submarine deal, has denied any involvement in the murder.

On the Suaram case which the lawyerfiled in Paris last year, Bourdon said he was confident he would be able to access the related documents and files very soon.

These expose is expected to bring to book high-profile Malaysian officials who are said to have received kickbacks amounting to millions of ringgit from the submarine deal.

Bourdon said the case was still under the investigation phase, where the police still interrogating witnesses.

On behalf of human rights group Suaram, Bourdon has applied to the public prosecutor to allow the Kuala Lumpur-based NGO to be admitted as a civil plaintiff in court.

If accepted, he said, an investigative judge will be appointed to handle the case.

"The investigative judge is the only real independent institution to deal with sensitive cases such as corruption," he said.

No real democracy if judges not independent

On whether the independence of the judiciary could be guaranteed, Bourdon said this would be assured through the appointment of the investigative judge by an independent body.

"The judges in such cases answer to no political hierarchy, so there is at least a legal guarantee that ensures their independence," he added.

"There can be no real democracy if judges are not independent."

NONEHowever, Bourdon does not discount the fact that in sensitive cases like corruption, there could be a possibility of the public prosecutor being approached to keep the truth from coming out.

"Especially if the truth is dangerous (to the people who approach the prosecutors)," he said.

"Which is why we need an independent media to balance between state power and these institutions," he said, adding quickly that he was aware of the current state of the media in Malaysia.

Although Bourdon is confident that the case is making a headway in France, he is still careful not to be presumptuous on whether Suaram would eventually be accepted as a civil plaintiff.

This is due to the circumstances in any case involving corruption, which can be very challenging anywhere in the world, he said.

The public prosecutor could well deny Suaram the right to appear as civil plaintiff and if this happened, Bourdon said, he would definitely file an appeal.

Even if Suaram failed to make it to court, there would be the opportunity for its lawyers to access the relevant documents and files in the case.

"In my opinion, if Suaram is not accepted as a civil plaintiff, it would seem like a breach of international legal standards and law," Bourdon added.

A Plan B in place

In any case, he said, he has a Plan B, about which he would not speak now. "All I can say is that we will move forward."

Bourdon himself has been involved in battles to make government leaders accountable for their corrupt ways and in issues of human rights abuse over the past 30 years.

He set up Sherpa, a non-profit organisation, with other lawyers in Paris in 2005 to work on international justice cases.

He has conducted about 50 monitoring missions in several countries.

During the course of his work in various countries, the authorities have threatened him with deportation - but never went through with it.

military malaysia navy french built submarine scorpene classThey did, however, monitor his movements and he felt he was 'in permanent control by the secret police', for example, in Tunisia and Turkey, from 1995-2005.

In all these years, his team has not only registered defeat but there have also been several victories.

For example, in a forced labour case between France and Thailand, his intervention helped secure a better life and working conditions for his clients.

Bourdon said he has realised that these days citizens, from Malaysia to Tunisia, were no longer tolerant of corruption.

"In the last 20 years, there has been a sense of resignation where corrupt practices are in a way 'acceptable' but not any more," he said.

"What has become important is democracy and rule of law, and corruption involving government leaders can break the confidence of public votes," he added.

[Source: Mkini]

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