KUALA LUMPUR: The French Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed, according to the Financial Times (FT), that Bernard Baiocco, a former president of French defence group Thales International Asia was being formally investigated for the alleged payment of kickbacks to unnamed Malaysian officials for a USD1.2 billion arms deal.
The bribes were allegedly paid through, a known associate of then Defence Minister Najib Abdul Razak, for a 2002 contract of two submarines now parked at the Sepanggar Naval Base in the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
All three men – Baiocco, Baginda and Najib, who is now Malaysia’s Prime Minister – have denied wrongdoing in the arms deal.
Baiocco’s lawyer, Jean-Yves Le Borgne, told FT that both Najib and Baginda had been named in judicial documents. Regardless, Borgne claimed that prosecutors were attempting “judicial acrobatics” in trying to prove that the bribes found their way to Najib through Baginda, who was purportedly paid for “lobbying work.”
Borgne said that there was no corruption involved and that the prosecutors “don’t have any evidence” to prove that the allegations against Najib are true.
According to FT, Baginda admitted during an interview that he was paid 30 million pounds on the French deal i.e. to lobby for it and exercise oversight for eight years of its execution. “It was a legitimate agreement. I did my job and was paid for it.
“[But] I never paid any public official.”
Baginda did, however, concede that he talked to Najib about the submarine deal, but only rarely. He also claimed that his interactions with Najib were limited to writing speeches for Najib when the latter was Defence Minister and accompanying him on overseas trips.
Thales and DCNS, the fellow defence company formerly known as DCN, both refused to comment on the French investigation.
Meanwhile, a Malaysian government spokesman told FT that allegations of Najib being involved in wrongdoing on the submarine deal were nothing but “baseless smears for political gain.”
“The Prime Minister never benefited from any payments for the submarine contract. The French Judiciary never contacted him.” The official also added that this was not the only matter wherein Najib’s reputation was besmirched.
“Najib is also the victim of political smears on the Altantuya killing,” he said, referencing Altantuya Shaariibuu.
The current investigation into the submarine deal has called more attention to the murder of the Mongolian model, whom purportedly doubled as a translator on the submarine deal and whom many say was killed in 2008 because of her involvement in the contract.
Although both Najib and Baginda have denied any involvement in her murder and have been cleared of any wrongdoing, some members of the public remain skeptical.
Nevertheless, the Malaysian official dismissed these claims too as baseless.
“There’s absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part and there never will be.”
Source from FMT NEWS