Jasbir Singh Chahl’s second statement issued to Bernama claims that the Scorpene contract award was made on a transparent basis to “the technically most qualified party on a commercially competitive negotiated price.”
He stressed that the contract between the Malaysian government and Perimekar Sdn Bhd for a value equivalent of 115 million Euros was for defined scope of works, and provision of such services was within commercial norms. Jasbir said Perimekar was subsequently nominated as the local vehicle to spearhead the submarine project while Terasasi Sdn Bhd (TSB) was incorporated to serve as an external service provider to advise and assist Thales.
“The assertion that Perimekar was a travel agency which had been given such tasks is outrageous and completely without basis,” said Jasbir, adding that it was a deliberate distortion of the facts by certain quarters for reasons of their own.
He repeats the red herring that Altantuya Shariibuu was not in the picture when the deal was being negotiated and finally signed in 2002 and she could not possibly have anything to do with the scandal.
There are two incontrovertible facts about the Scorpene scandal that seem to escape Jasbir:
1. This is a French-initiated judicial inquiry
First and foremost, this judicial inquiry into whether or not commissions were proffered in the sale of the Scorpene submarines has been initiated by the French judiciary. Suaram is merely the Malaysian complainant.
The French prosecutors have been busy for more than two years now trying to get to the bottom of this scandal. The facts that have emerged recently about the scandal are the result of the investigations by the French police, not unfounded allegations by Malaysian opposition parties or NGOs.
Malaysian taxpayers should really be thankful that we have been afforded a rare attempt to see beyond the integuments of the most expensive arms procurement in Malaysian history.
The last time there was such a detailed external inquiry into a Malaysian project was the British National Audit Office report on the scandal involving the RM5 billion arms deal Dr Mahathir Mohamad signed with Margaret Thatcher which was linked to the loan for the Pergau dam in the early nineties. It is only through these two inquiries that Malaysians get to see how the deals are done and the intricacies of the money trails.
Coming back to the Scorpene scandal, the hundred over documents from the French prosecutor’s office in Paris are the fruits of more than two years’ investigation by the French police into the workings of the French state arms company, DCN. From among these documents is a reference by DCN officials who characterised Perimekar as: “...nothing more than a travel agency... The price is inflated and their support function is very vague...
“Yes, that company created unfounded wealth for its shareholders... A separate agreement sets other compensation consisting of a fixed amount independent of the actual price of the main contract. The beneficiaries of these funds are not difficult to imagine: the clan and family relations of Mr Razak Baginda. In addition, these funds will find their way to the dominant political party.”
Thus, this was the impression Perimekar gave DCN officials and totally disingenuous for Jasbir to make it look as if this description of Perimekar was “... a deliberate distortion of the facts by certain quarters for reasons of their own.”
Malaysians should be aware that the French state-owned arms company, DCN have an interest in selling arms, including the Scorpene submarines and would do everything within their capability to ensure that they clinch the deal.
This invariably includes using middlemen and commissions to facilitate the process. Thus, they would not want to jeopardise their interests by badmouthing their customers. These documents have actually been forced out of DCN officials by French prosecutors investigating the scandal and would not have emerged otherwise.
Despite his rather suspicious belated “clarification” more than 10 years later, Jasbir has not illuminated us on his role in the negotiations: If everything was as hunky dory as he has made out, why did he sue and demand a share of Perimekar’s cut? Memos from the DCN investigation reveal that Jasbir had demanded a sizeable portion of Perimekar’s cut although he had been ousted from Perimekar early on in the negotiations.
His suit against Razak Baginda was later settled out of court.
2. Motive for Altantuya’s murder has not yet been established
The motive for the grisly murder of Altantuya has still not been ascertained, yet Jasbir keeps asserting that Altantuya never participated in the Scorpene negotiations in a vain attempt to section her off from the scandal.
Undoubtedly, she was not present during the negotiations since the deal was signed in 2002 and she only met Baginda in 2004. Nevertheless, Razak Baginda himself, when he was under investigation on charges of ordering the two bodyguards to kill the 28-year-old pregnant woman, told investigators he had travelled with her to France in 2005. After the signing of the contract, there were other aspects of the deal that had still to be ironed out.
Records seized by French investigators from DCN bear that out. According to the records, Abdul Razak Baginda and Altantuya met with one Jean Marie Boivin. Boivin arranged to pay for a trip by Altantuya and Abdul Razak to Macau. In those documents, Altantuya is described as Razak Baginda’s translator.
On the Malaysian side, Corporal Sirul Azhar Omar was interrogated by police shortly after the murder was discovered. In his cautioned statement, he told authorities he and Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri had been offered RM100,000 to kill the woman and her two companions, who were causing embarrassment for Abdul Razak Baginda.
The gov’t must reveal all about payments to Terasasi
We must, however, thank Jasbir for finally letting the Terasasi cat out of the bag when he stated categorically that this company had a role in the Scorpene submarine deal: “Perimekar was subsequently nominated as the local vehicle to spearhead the submarine project while Terasasi Sdn Bhd (TSB) was incorporated to serve as an external service provider to advise and assist Thales.”
All this time, the Malaysian government has not told parliament or the public about the existence of Terasasi (Abdul Razak Baginda’s other company) and that it had a share of the spoils from the purchase of the submarines. It has only tried to justify the payments to Perimekar. The existence of Terasasi and payments it received only emerged when the French prosecutors’ documents came to light.
After Jasbir’s gallant but vain attempt to whitewash the submarines scandal, it is time for the Malaysian government to reveal all about the role of Terasasi in the Scorpene deal.
DR KUA KIA SOONG is Suaram adviser.