September 30 is a day Prime Minister Najib Razak and his advisers will mark on their calendars. It is the day that French lawyers will give the latest update on the Scorpenes kickbacks case involving shipmaker DCN, Najib, his close friend Razak Baginda and murdered Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Cynthia Gabriel, director of Suaram, confirmed the date with Malaysia Chronicle, adding that French legal eagle Joseph Breham would head the presentation due to be made at a fund-raising dinner in London.
“Two reasons why London was chosen. One to tap the Malaysian disapora there as we need to raise a lot more funds to pay for legal expenses which will rise tremendously when the open court hearings begin. The other is of course, security. After Bourdon was deported from Kuala Lumpur, who would dare to come here. While Najib is PM, this is his territory, the lion’s den,” another Suaram source told Malaysia Chronicle.
Suaram is the Malaysian NGO that filed a complaint in the Parisian courts, seeking a probe against French firm DCN which it accused of having paid illegal commissions to Najib and other top Malaysian officials to secure the RM7.3 billion submarines deal. The NGO claims the kickbacks would have bloated the purchase price paid by Malaysian citizens, and top among the suspicious side-deals in the acquisition package is a RM570 million or 114 million euros service and support contract given to an obscure firm called Perimekar, which is controlled by Baginda.
The lion’s den and powerful hands
Another French lawyer appointed by Suaram, William Bourdon, had been unceremoniously deported by when he came to Malaysia to give three dinner presentations in July. Hours before the second presentation, and on the same day that Najib rushed home after cutting short an overseas vacation, Bourdon was sent back to Paris.
The lawyer was due to talk about the mystery ‘third person’ who had flown with Baginda and Altantuya to Macau during negotioations with DCN. It is widely suspected that this ‘third person’ was Najib Razak and once the documetary evidence such as plane tickets and bookings emerge, Najib’s downfall from power will be sealed. He had sworn on the Quran that he had never known Altantuya, so any contradiction to this claim would demand his resignation as leader of a predominantly Muslim nation.
Apart from corruptly accepting commission from DCN, Najib is alleged to have been romantically involved with Altantuya before introducing her to Baginda, who also became her lover. Four years after the deal was struck, Altantuya was murdered in Malaysia in 2006, after trying to get her share of commission from Baginda. Two of Najib’s former bodyguards have been sentenced to hang for her death.
Baginda too was charged for abetting the murder but he was controversially acquitted. But despite many trails leading back to Najib, who had sanctioned submarines purchase in his then capacity as Defense minister, powerful hands manipulated the Malaysian courts to clamp down on any testimony that was ‘damaging’ to Najib, thereby helping him to secure the prime minister’s seat in 2009.
On the political downcycle
With latest presentation in London and beyond Najib’s control, there is little he can do to stop ‘sensitive’ information from finally coming out. And this will worsen when open court hearings begin in Paris, most likely in October. The underperforming Malaysian PM is also on the downcycle within his own political party Umno, and the powerful hands that helped him during the Altantuya murder probe and trial in 2007 and 2008 are no longer so friendly. Chances are high that rival warlords will use the information to bolster their case for him to be removed as party president.
Najib’s popularity tanked an alarming 6 percentage points in August and there is a growing chorus in Umno and the BN coalition it heads for Najib to step down before snap general elections are held. And this is one of the key reasons why Najib, who once preferred to delay elections until the latest possible date, is now rushing for polls to be held in November. To wait would only give his rivals more room to maneuver his ouster.
“Najib is now a liability to Umno and BN because of his baggage from the past. Because of his scandals, he is a walking time-bomb and can bring further disaster to Umno and BN. The drop in popularity rating is only the tip of the iceberg,” PKR strategies director Rafizi Ramli told Malaysia Chronicle.
“There is also his mismanagement of the economy, the Bersih rally, the sodomy trial against Anwar Ibrahim, the dubious ISA repeals and the insistence that Malaya was never a colony. All these issues have boomeranged while his personal scandals have risen with the international media firms, his wife’s diamond ring and expensive overseas trips on public expense. All these seal his fate in Umno and his timespan as PM is now very limited”