French lawyer in Malaysia to aid submarine graft probe

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – A French lawyer probing a controversial submarine deal linked to Malaysia’s ousted leader Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday met officials to aid investigations into the scandal.

William Bourdon, who represents local human rights group Suaram over the French submarine deal, was deported from Malaysia on his last visit in 2011 when Najib’s scandal-mired regime was still in power.

But after a historic change of government last year, he returned to the country to help a new investigation into the case.

Malaysia purchased two French-made Scorpene submarines for USD1.2 billion in 2002 while Najib was defence minister. The French submarine maker Naval Group – then called DCNS – is alleged to have paid more than USD128 million in kickbacks to a shell company linked to Abdul Razak Baginda, a close Najib associate who brokered the deal.

Razak Baginda’s Mongolian mistress Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was said to have demanded a cut for translating during negotiations, was shot dead and her body blown up with military-grade plastic explosives near Kuala Lumpur in 2006.

The case sank off the radar after a Malaysian court in 2008 cleared Razak Baginda of abetting the murder, sparking allegations of a huge cover-up to protect Najib.