Saturday, 23 July 2011

Scorpene lawyer deported, RM16b in defence deals quizzed

July 23, 2011
Bourdon was in Malaysia to brief activists on the Scorpene graft probe in France. — Reuters pic
PETALING JAYA, July 23 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) seized on the sudden deportation of William Bourdon last night to renew scrutiny into billion-ringgit defence contracts said to be as scandalous as the RM7 billion Scorpene submarine deal that the lawyer was pursuing in France.
PR lawmakers told an audience of 500 here last night that the French lawyer’s deportation showed the Najib administration wanted to keep facts about defence deals hidden.

“We know French police have obtained quite crucial documents, linking (Datuk Seri) Najib Razak, our beloved prime minister himself. That is why irrational actions were taken today,” said PKR vice president Nurul Izzah Anwar.

Nurul Izzah said the government’s reaction will draw added scrutiny to the deals. — Picture by Choo Choy May
The Lembah Pantai MP added, “the fact that the Malaysian government has kicked Bourdon out most dishonourably today has helped our cause even more.” The French lawyer was held in the aircraft by three immigration officers when he landed in Sepang from Penang yesterday morning.
She said that Bourdon’s deportation and Barisan Nasional’s (BN) clampdown on the July 9 Bersih rally for free and fair elections raised questions of Najib’s “pronouncements of transformation.”

DAP publicity chief Tony Pua spent 20 minutes recounting three other defence deals made over the past three years totalling RM16 billion for vehicles that cost Malaysia far more than other countries.

The Petaling Jaya Utara MP told his constituents that this included the RM2.3 billion for 12 Eurocopter EC725 helicopters, RM6 billion for six offshore patrol vessels (OPV) and RM7.8 billion for 257 armoured personnel carriers.

He said that questions over these deals in the media or in Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee were met with the repeated refrain of “itu rahsia (that is secret). The armed forces and defence ministry officials insisted they could not expose military secrets to the rest of the world.”

According to Pua, Brazil had purchased the Eurocopters at just RM82 million per unit as opposed to RM190 million paid by Malaysia, while New Zealand paid just RM240 million per OPV versus the RM1 billion each paid by Malaysia.

He also pointed out that the 257 armoured vehicles are to be supplied by local conglomerate DRB-Hicom, who in turn had bought the vehicles from a Turkish firm for just RM1.9 billion, only a quarter of the price that Malaysian taxpayers would fork out eventually.

The purchase of two submarines from French defence company DCNS in 2002 was made when Najib was still defence minister and a company run by Abdul Razak Baginda, said to be a close aide of the then-deputy prime minister, was reported to have received commissions of over RM500 million from the deal.

People attend Suaram’s Scorpene investigation fundraiser in Petaling Jaya, July 22, 2011. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Human rights groups and opposition parties here also linked the episode to the 2006 murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Bourdon had arrived here from Penang, where he spoke at a fundraiser organised by rights group Suaram regarding the Scorpene submarine deal and was scheduled to speak at last night’s event.

In December 2009, Suaram filed a complaint with the French courts asking for access to information regarding government contracts signed with Abdul Razak’s Perimekar Sdn Bhd and other information classified as official secrets in Malaysia.

The French courts accepted the request to investigate claims of graft in the RM500 million payment from DCNS to Perimekar.

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