AUTHORITIES in France have indicted two former top executives connected to an extensive investigation into graft allegations involving the sale of Scorpene submarines to Malaysia in a scandal believed linked to government officials and the murder of a Mongolian woman.
According to the AFP (via Free Malaysia Today), sources close to the inquiry on Tuesday said the two are French naval dockyards unit DCNI former chairman Philippe Japiot and French defence and electronics giant Thales former chief executive Jean-Paul Perrier.
One source said the two, who were interviewed in May, were indicted for corruption, with Japiot receiving additional indictment for “abuse of social assets”. Perrier was indicted for “complicity in the abuse of social assets”.
Since 2010, French investigators have been probing the US$1.2 billion sale of two submarines to Malaysia’s Defence Ministry, with investigators believing at least some of the money funnelled through a Hong Kong-registered company, Terasasi (Hong Kong) Ltd, went into the pocket of Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak.
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The authorities investigated DCNI for allegedly paying commission of more than EUR114 million (roughly US$131 million) to a purported shell company linked to Abdul Razak Baginda, Najib’s close confidante.
At the time of the US$1.1 billion deal involving the two Scorpene-class submarines in 2012, Najib was serving as Malaysia’s defence minister.
According to the AFP, Japiot headed DCNI, the international branch of France’s centuries-old naval shipbuilding operations, from 2001 to 2007. Last month, the company changed its name from DCNS to Naval Group.
The French state holds just under two-thirds of Naval Group, and Thales slightly more than a third, the AFP reported.
The investigation also named two other people – Dominique Castellan, also a former DCNI president, and Thales International Asia former president Bernard Baiocco – in the probe.
However, all four have denied the allegations while Malaysian investigators cleared all those implicated of any wrongdoing, raising ire among Malaysian opposition members who called it a cover-up.
The scandal was brought into the spotlight in 2006 after the body of Abdul Razak’s Mongolian mistress Altantuya Shaariibuu was found blown up with plastic explosives near Kuala Lumpur.
Abdul Razak was subsequently charged in Malaysia with abetting the murder, which was speculated to have occurred after she blackmailed him over the information she had from being his translator in France.
However, French investigators did not link her death to the submarine purchase scandal.