Amid fears that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government might fabricate bizarre charges to deflect blame from himself, French lawyer William Bourdon has issued a statement categorically denying that he or his wife had done anything wrong to warrant arrest, detention and deportation.
“I have not violated any law in Malaysia and strongly protest my detention,” Bourdon’s statement written in French read.
“I do not understand the rationale of this detention; secondly, I have acted professionlly as Suaram’s lawyer; and thirdly, I only came to explain the details of the Scorpenes lawsuit.”
His wife Lea Forestier, who travelled from Paris with him, was not detained. She read out the statement at a briefing to the press. The authorities have closed off access to William.
“He is demanding exit flight to be arranged tonight instead of prolonged detention. The only other experience of William Bourdon and myself being denied entry was from Tunisia under Ben Ali, that was a banana republic then,” Lea said.
Crucial documents found
Bourdon is the lawyer appointed by Malaysian NGO Suaram to probe the BN government’s purchase of two Scorpene and one Agosta submarine from French arms giant DCN, following widespread allegations of massive graft in the deal that was sanctioned by Prime Minister Najib Razak in the early 2000s.
After failing to get the Malaysian authorities to investigate the corruption claims, Suaram filed a complaint with the French police. It is illegal for a French firm to pay bribes to win a deal and should it be found guilty, DCN may have to compensate Malaysian taxpayers as well as reveal the identities of the people who received the kickback it paid out.
If the DCN testimony was clear, and Najib proven to be one of theose who accepted the bribes, he would surely be asked to step down by his UMNO party. Bourdon flew in to Penang from Paris on Thursday, and had given a speech to a packed audience.
Bourdon confirmed that the French authorities had agreed to appoint an investigative judge in September, which would be a major step forward for Suaram as such a judge had greater powers and could order special probes.
Bourdon also confirmed that French police had found “quite crucial” documents and he was confident Suaram would win its case against DCN. He was due to give further deatils of new and bigger ‘commissions’ uncovered by the investigators, as well as reveal the identities of several people including a top Malaysian VIP involved in the kickbacks.
This VIP had travelled to Macau with submarines negotiator Razak Baginda and Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu and is speculated to be Najib himself.
If the evidence is clear, this could pave the way for the Altantuya murder case to be re-opened as Najib had previously insisted he never knew her at all. There have been allegations that Najib was also her lover before he ‘passed’ her onto Baginda.
Two of the PM’s former bodyguarads have been sentenced to hang for her death.
It is obvious with so much riding on the case, Najib might have felt pressured to clamp down on Bourdon.
Due to the conspiracies and plots his administration has launched against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy charges and a sex video scam, there is fear that Najib might concoct some bizarre charges to detain Bourdon longer.
However, Suaram officials confirm Bourdon will be deported at 11.30pm Friday night. He has passed a message to the Malaysian people, transmitted by PKR deputy president Azmin Ali on Twitter.
“I offer you hope and courage and keep fighting for truth and justice!” said Bourdon.
“It is not what you know when you start that matters. It is what you can learn as you go along. When you are starting something new and challenging, always think, ‘Can do.’ Your capacity to do anything is simply a state of mind.”
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.”
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.
The murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu can never be swept under the carpet just like any other issue found decremental to the highest leader in Malaysia. A human life should never be bartered or made a pawn in a web of lies spun specifically to amass wealth for oneself. In true karmic fashion, Altantuya has come back to bite her tormentors. And Najib Razak, whether directly or indirectly, is one of them.
As the Malaysian PM winds up a high-profile tour of Europe, concluding a string of meetings with the British Prime Minister, Oueen Elizabeth and the Pope, waiting to greet him in Malaysia are French lawyers with a slew of new revelations and allegations. The Defense minister in charge of procurements at the relevant time, Najib still has to answer for his role in the purchase of Scorpene submarines, where huge kickbacks in the hundreds of millions have been alleged.
US took Bala’s claims seriously
Not only have French investigators moved forward in their work, a US cable recently leaked by Wikileaks showed that the US government had paid serious attention to the statutory declaration made by a private investigator P Balasubramaniam, who was hired by Najib’s close friend Razak Baginda.
The deposition is based primarily on statements reportedly made by Altantuya and Baginda, who was also a negotiator in the Scorpenes deal, and indicates that Najib too had an affair with Altantuya.
Bala said he was told by Baginda that Altantuya had assisted Najib in the controversial purchase of French submarines, and Najib attempted to intervene on Razak Baginda’s behalf at the time of his arrest for her murder. The investigator claims that this information was suppressed by police and ignored by prosecutors.
Balasubramaniam based his statement on conversations he had with Razak Baginda and with Altantuya, on events he witnessed acting as Baginda’s investigator, and his experiences under arrest and in the courtroom at the opening stage of the murder trial.
Among other things, the Bala affidavit includes the following damaging allegations against Najib and others:
* Najib and Altantuya had an affair and that Najib introduced her to Baginda. (Note: Najib has repeatedly denied knowing Altantuya. End note.)
* Najib, along with Razak Baginda, was with Altantuya in Paris in connection with the negotiations for the purchase of French submarines, and that Altantuya believed she was due $500,000 for her services.
* Najib asked Razak Baginda to take care of Altantuya, as Najib did not want Altantuya harassing him.
* Najib, in a text message, told Razak Baginda he would meet with Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan to resolve the issue of Razak Baginda’s impending arrest for murder.
* Police omitted the above information that Balasubramaniam provided during his seven-day interrogation regarding the murder, and that prosecutors never addressed any questions to him during his court appearances.
A massive cover-up operation
The Wikileaks further points to the massive cover-up operation launched by Najib himself to protect his interests in the submarine purchase. Najib’s apparent manipulation of the Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan and Attorney General Gani Patail to assure that Baginda’s arrest would be ‘resolved’ is unbecoming of a leader of his standing.
In 2002, Najib was the Defense minister when he pushed for the submarines acquisition and when he sought to protect Baginda, he was already the Deputy Prime Minister and anxious to move into the top seat held by Abdullah Badawi.
The revelations in this recent Wikileaks document adds to the pile of fumbles Najib has amassed since assuming the PM’s seat in 2009 after ousting Badawi in an internal UMNO party power tussle. This means Najib was never popularly elected as PM. This is a prime minister leading on borrowed time and without a clear mandate from the voting public of Malaysia.
Contrary to what Najib continues to assert, he may not be as popular as he keeps insisting that he is. The people have not been given the chance to decide if he is to lead Malaysia. Najib merely assumed the role from Badawi by taking over the helm of the UMNO presidency.
Now that blunder after blunder has been made especially in the handling of the Bersih rally, Najib and his administration are in fierce damage-control mode. This includes censuring foreign publications, threatening foreign media from reporting the rally and massive crackdown on supporters of the Bersih movement for free and fair elections.
Expected response to the fresh Scorpene revelations – more lies!
If Najib is capable of manipulating the administration to cover-up his alleged involvement in the mulit-billion ringgit Scorpenes deal and also the Altantuya murder, then it won’t surprise anyone that his administration will continue to lie to the Malaysian public.
Just like the Bersih-related arrest of 6 Parti Sosialis Malaysia activists, where the Najib administration was again caught red-handed in a blatant lie. Minister in the PM’s Department Nazri Aziz insisted the police had no choice but to arrest the 6 on an archaic Emergency law that allows for indefinite detention without trial. Why? Because they threatened ‘national security, the minister said. The PSM were trying to revive Communism and that’s why they were arrested.
But actual court documents filed by the police showed their arrest was for carrying out Bersih-related activities and did not mention a single word on Communism. The common thread in the PSM 6 and the Scorpene-Altantuya cases is how Najib and team are willing lie bare-faced on all and every matter that is unfavourable to them and which can threaten their stay in power.
We now have a Prime Minister who is an embarrassment to the Malaysia. Malaysians are stuck with a PM who is willing to go to great lengths to cover-up his mistakes and fumbles. He thinks nothing of manipulating the apparatus of government especially the media. Instead of moving government to serve the people, Najib has turned the government into his own tool for sustaining his hold on power.
But it looks like the last few straws are being placed on the camel’s back. And Altantuya, a vision as she smiles gently, will surely be among those who will be placing those final pieces on Najib’s stressed-out back
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.
The verdict is in. Loud and clear. Guilty as charged. The news flashed across the world, resounding through the electronic media, leaving Malaysians stunned and concerned that they are now being led by a man who has “lost it”.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has tried all ways and means to insist that he was above board – firom financial skullduggery in the RM7 billion Scorpenes submarines case to the Altantuya murder, in which he even took an oath on the Quran to say that he never knew her.
But his actions belie his words. On Friday morning, flying in to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport from Penang, French lawyer William Bourdon was arrested and will be deported at 11.30pm on Friday night.
The 55-year old Bourdon was hired by Malaysian NGO Suaram to sue submarines vendor DCN for paying kickbacks and bribes to top Malaysian officials, of whom Najib is likely to be one given that he was the Defense minister sanctioning the deal.
Before Bourdon could spill the beans on the Malaysian leader at the second of a 3-part briefing in Kuala Lumpur over the Scorpenes corruption and kickbacks case, he was hauled up and shut up.
Shortened vacation to block Bourdon: Resign now
But for how long can Najib cling to his enforced advantage? Until Bourdon reaches Paris of course, where he can then be expected to air his grievances to the international media, which won’t mince their words either.
Najib would have done better for himself and his nation to have held his hand. Instead, he cut short a family holiday in Europe, saying he wanted to be with the people. Najib also expressed gratitude to his wife, who has also scandalised the nation with her extravagant splurges, the latest allegedly being a gargantuan RM24.4 million diamond ring.
“I told my family I felt that I should return to Malaysia and that I was prepared to forgo the holiday for the sake of Malaysians back home,” Bernama reported Najib as saying when he arrived home at the airport.
However, it is clear now his true intentions were to block Bourdon and the truth from coming out. Calls are now ringing in for Najib to step down immediately,.
“This is a silly move and is happening because Najib is on his last legs, politically. There is no justification especially when days ago, he was preaching to the Pope about the need for moderation, now look at his own conduct at home. How many people believe in his innocence in both the Scorpenes and Altantuya cases, but we gave him the benefit of doubt. Now, it is he himself who is telling the world that he is guilty by his actions,” Batu MP Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
“UMNO is guilty of abuse of power as they are using immigration to protect Najib and themselves. An embarrassment to Malaysia as it involves a French citizen and has become international new. This desperate act proves that they have something to hide,” PKR vice president N Surendran told Malaysia Chronicle.
Fears for Bourdon’s safety
There are also fears among the civil society groups and the diplomatic community here that the Malaysian authorities might ‘stuff’ Bourdon with false charges to cover up for their high-handedness. To avoid this, both Bourdon and his wife Lea Forestier have issued a statement, categorically denying that they had done anything wrong. Their return flights are booked for Sunday and the Malaysian authorities had initially wanted to detain them until then.
Lea (pic) and Suaram demanded that they be allowed to leave on the 11.30 pm flight out tonight. Suaram officials have since confirmed that the Malaysian authorities have agreed to this, prompting a sigh of relief all round.
With all due respect, the Malaysian government has attracted so much notoriety of late that there is real fear that something unfortunate could befall Boudon especially if he remained in custody until Sunday.
Custodials deaths are on the rise, with human rights lawyers condemning the police for ‘killing’ with impunity. Recently, there have also been two very suspicious deathfalls at the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission offices, believed to have been trigged by excessive interrogation and outright torture to extract false confessions.
‘It is an abuse of power and till now, no explanation has been given,” Cynthia Gabriel, Suaram director, toldMalaysia Chronicle.
“William Bourdon taken from KLIA to Immigration refused to sign any documents in Bahasa Malaysia (Malay language). Hopefully, the Immigration office is on the ground floor,” DAP MP for Sibu Wong Ho Leng said on his Twitter, in a clear swipe at the spate of MACC ‘homicide-suicides’.