Malaysia says 'no case' in French probe into submarine deal

29th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

Malaysia on Thursday downplayed a French probe into claims of corruption over a 1.1-billion-dollar submarine deal linked to Prime Minister Najib Razak, saying there was "no case" to answer.

The opposition welcomed the investigation and said the case was just the "tip of the iceberg" of corrupt defence contracts in Malaysia.

French judicial officials have confirmed to AFP that they opened a probe in March into the 2002 sale of two Scorpene submarines made by the French shipbuilder DCN.

The case was opened at the request of Malaysian rights group Suaram, which alleges DCN paid a commission of 114 million euros (150 million dollars) to a company called Perimekar.

Perimekar is linked to Abdul Razak Baginda, an associate of Najib's. He was later acquitted on charges of abetting the 2006 murder of his mistress, Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu, in a case which captivated the nation.

"It is their right to investigate but for us, there is no case," a spokesman from the prime minister's office told AFP, maintaining the deal was free of graft and that Perimekar had not improperly benefited.

"This is not a new issue -- it is a concerted and continued effort by the opposition to discredit the premier," the spokesman said. "It is politically motivated."

"The deal has always been politicised and associated with the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case. Since they are not making any headway now, they are pursuing it from another angle," he added.

He declined to say whether Malaysian officials will cooperate in the probe.

Najib, defence minister when the deal was brokered, has defended the submarines' purchase and denied any involvement in Altantuya's murder.

Two Malaysian policemen, from an elite unit that guards top ministers, were last year sentenced to death for killing Altantuya, whose body was blown up with military-grade explosives in a jungle clearing.

The opposition welcomed the French probe, saying the government has not been transparent on the deal and that it was "alarming" that the French authorities had to investigate the case.

"It shows Malaysia was engaged in a dubious deal and as a result of that, a foreign country -- where the submarines were bought from -- is actually investigating it," said Tian Chua from the lead opposition party Keadilan.

"There is a long list of (defence) scandals, this looks like just a tip of the iceberg," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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