Saturday 17 March 2012

Scorpene subs case to open in France, finally

Kuala Lumpur-based human rights NGO Suaram's case against giant French shipbuilder DCNS will finally go to court after a three-year hiatus.

Suaram director Cynthia Gabriel confirmed that the case will be heard in the Paris courts, but will only reveal further details at a press conference tomorrow.
"The moment has arrived. The case is opening in France. We are very excited about it," she told Malaysiakini, when contacted.

INONEt was delayed by political developments in both France and Malaysia, given the high-profile nature of the case.

The French company which had supplied two Scorpene submarines to Malaysia, has been accused of paying millions of ringgit in kickbacks to top Malaysian officials involved in the purchase.

Under French law, such payment or commission is deemed illegal.

Involving the RM7.3 billion purchase of two Scorpene-class submarines in 2002 by the Malaysian government, the scandal took place when Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak (above) was defence minister.

Polls, pride, come in way

NONECynthia (left) said the case had been held back earlier as both countries faced the likelihood of elections, and the stakes were high for politicians allegedly involved in the procurement.

Suaram's lawyers had informed the NGO that part of the reason for the delay was the French public prosecutor's own objection to remove the case from his purview and move it up to the open courts.

William Bourdon and Joseph Brehem from Sherpa, a French NGO working on legal human rights issues, are lawyers for Suaram.
Cynthia had then also hinted at possible political interference when she said that after many weeks of uncertainty, this hurdle was overcome as the public prosecutor had withdrawn his objection, allowing the court proceedings to commence.

"We had received unverified information of possible interference in the public prosecutor's findings.

"We were informed but could not verify, that efforts were being made to delay the case until after the French general election, expected to be held in the middle of this year," she said.

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