Malaysia urged to fully probe Alstom allegations

7th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Transparency International on Wednesday called for a thorough probe by Malaysian authorities into alleged bribery by French industrial group Alstom, in a scandal involving several countries.

Malaysian media had reported Tuesday that anti-corruption officials last week "visited" the office of a power firm amid allegations a former official took kickbacks from Alstom related to a power project in the 1990s.

Several executives at Teknologi Tenaga Perlis Consortium (TTPC) also had been questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Star newspaper said.

"Transparency International Malaysia calls upon the MACC to leave no stone unturned in the investigations on Alstom's business dealings in Malaysia," a statement by the anti-corruption group said.

The Swiss attorney general's office last month ordered Alstom to pay 31 million euros ($41.6 million) in fines over the scandal, in which Alstom is alleged to have offered bribes and kickbacks in Malaysia, Latvia and Tunisia.

The bribes were offered to middlemen and officials with the aim of securing government contracts to build power plants.

The Malaysian investigation of TTPC was triggered by the Swiss attorney general's actions, The Star said, quoting an unnamed source.

It said Abdul Hamid Pawanteh, the former chief minister of Perlis state and a former top official with TTPC, allegedly took 7.5 million Swiss Francs ($8.1 million) to help Alstom secure a contract for a power plant project in Perlis in the 1990s.

The Star quoted Abdul Hamid as denying all wrongdoing.

Abdul Hamid did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment, while officials at the MACC refused comment.

A statement sent to AFP by Alstom's office in Malaysia denied any "systematic bribery" in the company's operations, saying it was "a victim of the misconduct of its employees", but declined to give further specifics.

Transparency International said in an annual ranking of the least corrupt countries released earlier this month that Malaysia had slipped nearly 30 spots over the past decade and now ranked 60th out of 183 countries.

It cited "the continuing and snowballing practice of awarding mega-projects and contracts without open tenders or competitive bidding", and noted a "continued close nexus between business and politics in Malaysia".

© 2011 AFP

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