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Friday, January 30, 2015

Nothing straightforward about Altantuya murder

Former lover Razak Baginda says Altantuya’s murder was straightforward although the case is mired in complexities and inconsistencies.
COMMENT
By Dr Kua Kia Soong
altantuya murder2Nearly ten years after the grisly murder of the Mongolian lass Altantuya, we have finally heard from Razak Baginda, her former lover who was charged with abetment in her murder in 2006. He claims it was “just a straightforward murder case” by two rogue policemen and uses the statistics on deaths in police custody to back up his assertion. And justice was done because “the judge was so liberal “even allowing Karpal Singh to ask questions in the court…
Anomalies in the case
Actually, Karpal had protested against yet another anomaly in the case when in 2013 he pointed out that the prosecution was dragging its feet on the appeal against the acquittal of two former police commandos for the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu. He said the Attorney General’s Chambers could file its petition of appeal and state reasons why the Court of Appeal was wrong when it acquitted the two policemen based on the written grounds of the judgment. There was no need to wait for the entire appeal records to file the petition of appeal.
Chief inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar had walked out free men after the appeal against their High Court convictions were allowed at the Appeal Court. The policemen, formerly with the Special Action Unit (UTK), had been found guilty of murdering Altantuya in 2006. Razak Baginda, who was Altantuya’s lover, was acquitted by the High Court for abetment without his defence being called.
Karpal’s client, Setev Shaariibuu (Altantuya’s father) had filed a RM100-million suit against Abdul Razak, Azilah, Sirul and the government over his daughter’s death. In 2013, Karpal had said the public prosecutor should apply to detain the policemen pending the outcome of the appeal. The subsequent absence of one of the defendants, Sirul from the Federal Court appeal shows how prescient he was and how laggard the prosecution has been in the whole case.
“There should be no discrimination. The prosecution has been obtaining court orders to detain locals and foreigners pending appeal and these persons were acquitted after facing charges that carried the death penalty,” he said.
A three-man bench at the Appeal Court, chaired by Datuk Seri Mohamad Apandi Ali had said in their judgment, among other things, the prosecution’s failure to call DSP Musa Safri, a former aide-de-camp of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had weakened the prosecution’s case. Nevertheless, the Appeal Court could have asked for a retrial at the High Court where the motive for the murder could have been obtained.
Nothing short of a full inquiry
Nothing short of a full public inquiry into the Altantuya murder and the motive for her murder will do. The prosecution of the case has been tardy from the start, with the failure to establish the motive for Altantuya’s murder the most questionable of all. Through the case, the labored attempts by both prosecution and defence to obstruct the probe into any involvement of the then defence minister were also most bewildering.
We need the equivalent of the 2004 Hutton Report when a public inquiry was held in Britain over the death of Dr David Kelly, a Ministry of Defence biological weapons expert who knew the truth about the British government’s claim that Saddam Hussein could launch his weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes as had been claimed by the Blair administration. And this time, let us ensure that there is a fair composition of independent members to make such an inquiry believable.
Among the “strange” twists to the Altantuya murder case was the sudden removal of the presiding judge before the trial started without giving a plausible explanation to the lawyers, not to mention the head of the prosecution team was changed at the eleventh hour. Finally, defence lawyers for the three accused kept changing with one walking out on the first day of hearing, charging that “third parties” were interfering in his work.
Public doubt, however, worsened after both defence lawyers and prosecutors cut off a witness (Altantuya’s cousin) from testifying further when she revealed that the victim had shown her a photograph of herself, Baginda, then defence minister and “others” having lunch in a Paris restaurant. The court too did not ask the witness to produce the photograph.
Murder had nothing to do with purchase of submarines?
In the recent interview, Razak Baginda claims that the murder of Altantuya had absolutely nothing to do with the purchase of the Scorpene submarines. First and foremost, this judicial inquiry in France into whether or not commissions were proffered in the sale of the Scorpene submarines has been initiated by the French judiciary. The French prosecutors have been busy for more than four 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.
The hundred over documents from the French prosecutor’s office in Paris are the fruits of more than four years’ investigation by the French police into the workings of the French state arms company, DCN which sold the submarines to the Malaysian government through Razak Baginda’s company, Perimekar. From among these documents is a reference by DCN officials who characterized 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.”
As a free man now and an academic, Razak Baginda would have scrutinized these documents which were available in toto at an online press portal. He should comment on these documents if he wants to clear his name from the allegations contained in these depositions by DCN officials.
I agree that Altantuya was not an “interpreter” in the submarine 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 traveled 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”.
Razak Baginda should reveal payments to Terasasi.
Jasbir Singh Chahl has revealed in an NST interview that:
“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.
DCN Officer Confirms Commissions
In September 2008, during the course of the Karachi Case also involving DCN, the note books of Gérard-Philippe Menayas, former chief financial officer of DCN, who was indicted in the case, also confirmed the suspicions of hidden commissions. In his memorandum, Menayas mentioned the Malaysian submarine contract as follows:
“Since the entry into force of the OECD Convention regarding the fight against corruption in September 2000, only two contracts have been signed; the first with India, and the second with Malaysia in 2002. These two contracts are the result of commercial actions undertaken prior to the OECD Convention. Furthermore, they are both suspected of non-compliance with this Convention. I have evidence to support this”.
Furthermore, it appears there were three commissions instead of one paid for the sale of submarines. In addition to that of 114 million euros, there are two further instalments, one paid by DCN to the commercial networks of Thalès, for over 30 million euros, corresponding to “commercial fees relating to the negotiation and execution of the contract”. This second commission was paid by Thalès to a recipient, who remains unknown, in order to convince the Malaysian government of the need to conduct additional work. The third commission was for 2.5 million euros.
Finally, according to the complaint filed by the firm Bourdon, Suaram’s lawyer, the company Gifen which was established by Jean-Marie Boivin in Malta, intervened in the negotiations “so as to facilitate the money transfers in this case”, and particularly finance the trips of Baginda and Altantuya.
Were these also straightforward commercial transactions, Razak Baginda?
Dr Kua Kia Soong is an FMT reader

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