Less than a month after a U.S. jury convicted former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng of corruption charges related to his role in helping plunder billions of dollars from Malaysia’s 1MDB development fund, a French judge has charged the defence group Thales with complicity in bribery over a 2002 sale of submarines to Malaysia. What do both have in common?
Both the 1MDB and the submarine scandals involved the disgraced former Prime Minister Najib Razak. And both scandals have everything you can imagine – bribery, abuse of power, money laundering, criminal breach of trust, kickbacks, blackmail, extraordinary sex and even the brutal murder of Mongolian beauty Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was pregnant when her body was blown up with military-grade explosive.
Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said – “Today’s verdict is a victory for not only the rule of law, but also for the people of Malaysia. The defendant and his cronies saw 1MDB not as an entity to do good for the people of Malaysia, but as a piggy bank to enrich themselves”. Roger could be sent to 30 years in prison.
U.S. prosecutors have said Goldman Sachs helped 1MDB raise US$6.5 billion through three bond sales, but that US$4.5 billion was diverted to government officials, bankers and their associates through bribes and kickbacks between 2009 and 2015. Mr Najib himself was found to have pocketed a whopping US$681 million (RM2.6 billion) in his private bank accounts.
But the fact that the U.S. court took only eight weeks to deliver a verdict has piled pressure on the Malaysian judicial system, which needed almost 2 years to convict Najib in the trial of SRC International (a subsidiary of 1MDB). Still, despite being sent to a total 72 years in prison in July 2020, but to be served concurrently over 12 years, the shameless ex-PM has yet to be jailed. He remains free on appeal till today.
Najib remains the most powerful and influential leader in his political party – United Malays National Organization (UMNO) – hence very few expect him to be dressed in prison uniform to serve his sentence. UMNO has been increasing efforts to free him, including the prospect of a royal pardon to allow him to escape not only prison, but a return to the corridors of power as the prime minister again.
A photo of the convicted criminal invited to the Palace for a special dinner during Ramadan on April 18 has raised eyebrows over a royal pardon by the King, known for his close relationship with Najib. Not only Najib was invited to dine and wine with the Agong (King), the crook was seated at the high table alongside PM Ismail Sabri, who in turn seated next to the monarch.
The pressure to keep the despicable man out of prison also saw attempts to discredit Court of Appeal judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, the same High Court judge who had convicted Najib in July 2020. On Dec 8, 2021, Judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, who chaired a three-man bench alongside Has Zanah Mehat and Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera of the Court of Appeal, upheld the High Court’s verdict.
Dubious allegations were also cooked up by Najib supporters and spin doctors that Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, under political interference, had agreed to expedite the cases against politicians like Najib and UMNO president Zahid Hamidi, who similarly faces trial involving 47 charges related to corruption, money laundering and criminal breach of trust (CBT).
Now that France has officially charged Thales over corruption in a US$1.2 billion deal to sell two Scorpene-class submarines and one Agosta submarine in 2002, during which Najib was the defence minister, any preparation by the King Sultan Abdullah to grant Najib a royal pardon will come under fire. Worse, it could bring back the gruesome murder of Altantuya.
It was already incredibly hard to spin new fairy tales that the conviction of Roger Ng in the U.S. was part of the opposition plan to politically target him. Now, it gets worse with France finally charged in total nine defendants, including Thales, at a time when Najib was happily looking forward to a snap national election, which could happen anytime – his best chance to return as PM again.
Unable to spin and twist a new narrative to link the conviction of Roger Ng and the charges of Thales to a political conspiracy targeting him, Mr Najib, consistent with his reputation as a serial liar, has argued that he is not guilty because it was his boss – former premier Mahathir Mohamad (who happened to be the finance minister) who had approved the purchase of the submarines.
Well, if Mahathir was solely responsible for all the final purchases made by all his ministers because he was the person who holds the purse strings, then all the corrupt UMNO ministers can get away with briberies. How hard could it be for Najib to quietly solicit a certain amount of bribery for himself – without Mahathir’s knowledge – before the final deal was signed by his boss?
Based on Najib’s logic, did he just admit that as the former premier and finance minister himself, he too was solely responsible for the 1MDB scandal since he was also the person who holds the purse strings, not to mention he was chairman of 1MDB’s Board of Director? Heck, his partner-in-crime Jho Low had even bought diamond jewelleries for his wife Rosmah Mansor using money stolen from 1MDB.
Even if it’s true that then-PM Mahathir was the man who selected the submarines and negotiated the deal, was it not then-defence minister Najib who made the recommendation? Is Najib trying to say he was actually sleeping on the job, yet the French defence company was dumb enough to give him €114 million (RM520 million) in kickbacks for doing nothing at all?
Assuming the French is a bunch of idiots, how does the genius Najib explain the involvement of his close associate Abdul Razak Baginda as an adviser on the submarines deal? Not only Thales paid €114 million as “consulting work” to Perimekar, a Malaysian company of which Baginda’s wife was the primary shareholder, Altantuya eventually showed up at Baginda’s house and demanded US$500,000 in commission.
Thales (which owned a 50% share of prime contractor Armaris and now an indirect share through a stake in DCNS) paid the kickbacks to Perimekar, a company which was only set up in 2001, a few months before the deal were signed, and had no relevant experience or expertise in managing such project. Razak Baginda received a further €30 million, and another €2.5 million to bribe other Malaysian officials.
If indeed Mahathir was the man responsible, should not Thales pay the bribes to his crony instead of Najib’s crony? Should not Altantuya, upon hearing that €114 million had been paid as part of kickbacks for the deal, harassed Mahathir into paying her US$500,000 which she claimed was owed for her work as a translator. Why did Altantuya harass and blackmail Najib’s close confidant instead?
Interestingly, when Razak Baginda refused to be blackmailed, a pregnant Altantuya was murdered by Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar (formerly with the police’s Special Action Unit, UTK). Despite her begging, Ms. Shaariibuu was shot twice in the head, wrapped in C4 military-grade plastic explosives and blown up in Kuala Lumpur’s suburbs on October 19, 2006.
Back in 2015, when Al-Jazeera unleashed a damaging documentary – “Murder in Malaysia” – the journalist, Mary Ann Jolley, was deported by 5 Malaysian immigration officers and a man in military outfit. Guess who was the prime minister back then. Why didn’t Najib expose Mahathir (who had already started criticizing Najib’s 1MDB scandal), but instead bullies, harass and intimidate the Australian-based journalist?
That’s because Jolley had revealed on the Al-Jazeera weekly that besides the two convicted killers from the elite protection squad (Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar), there was a third person at the murder scene. That man was none other than Altantuya’s ex-lover Razak Baginda. Al-Jazeera also revealed how Najib informed Baginda that he too had a sexual relationship with Altantuya.
In fact, private investigator and witness Balasubramaniam’s Statutory Declaration did mention about Najib informing Baginda that Altantuya was susceptible to anal intercourse, suggesting that the prime minister had lied when he said he didn’t know her. And how did Najib know about the anal sex, unless of course, he had experienced it with Altantuya (also known as Aminah).
Azilah said in his SD – “I asked the DPM (Deputy Prime Minister Najib) what was meant by arrest and destroy the foreign spy and DPM responded ‘shoot to kill’ while showing the sign of slitting the throat. When asked what was meant by destroying the foreign spy’s body, DPM replied ‘Destroy the foreign spy’s body to get rid of traces.’”
When the police commando told Najib (who was then Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister) that a police report had to be made on the matter, Najib disagreed and argued that the matter could not be made public as it involved national security. Azilah was told that the foreign spy was a very dangerous woman due to many national secrets she knew. Najib also said Altantuya would pretend to be pregnant.
Azilah was briefed by Najib – “The foreign spy could not approach the DPM (Najib) due to the tight security and therefore the spy threatened the DPM’s special officer instead”. That special officer was Abdul Razak Baginda. Even though Azilah and Sirul had been convicted, the question remains as to why both commandos would abduct and kill a woman whom they never knew.
The zero motive to kill a defenceless woman was finally unveiled when Sirul said he was merely acting on orders from his superior – DSP Musa Safri. A former aide de camp of Najib, Musa Safri only took orders from his boss. That explains why Musa Safri was never called in the trial as a material witness because to do so would force Musa to testify against Najib Razak.
Mr Najib also lied that Pakatan Harapan government had failed to prove he was involved in the corruption scandal linked to the purchase of French submarines. As revealed by French lawyer William Bourdon, the missing link is the bank accounts of a shell company in Hong Kong called Terasasi (Hong Kong) Ltd, which was used to divert €36 million (RM164 million).
The MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) reopened the Scorpene scandal in November 2018, six months after Pakatan Harapan government took over, and almost 7 years after Najib regime barred Bourdon from entering Malaysia since July 2011. French Magistrate and Financial Prosecutor arrived in Kuala Lumpur in December 2018 to meet various judicial authorities and stakeholders.
In addition, Pakatan Harapan wanted to extradite Sirul Azhar- who is being held in the Villawood detention centre in Sydney ever since the convicted killer was arrested in Queensland for overstaying his tourist visa. Unfortunately, the Pakatan government collapsed after Muhyiddin betrayed his own government, conspired with UMNO and Islamist party PAS to form a backdoor government.
To make things complicated, Australia had refused to extradite Mr Sirul (former elite bodyguard of Najib) back to Malaysia because the country’s extradition legislation does not allow a person to be surrendered to another country for an offence punishable by death, unless the country (in this case Malaysia) has given Australia an undertaking that the death penalty will not will not be carried out.
Like Malaysia, the Scorpene submarines scandal is a sensitive issue in France because of involvement of top French politicians, including then-Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. The investigation, which opened in Paris in 2010 was only closed in January 2022. Azilah and Sirul were caught because Altantuya taxi driver, annoyed at not being paid, had noted down the registration number of the kidnappers’ car.
Now that UMNO is back as an unelected government, the influential Najib could easily arrange for Jho Low to be repatriated from China to prove his innocence. Likewise, if Najib is as innocent as he claims, he could tell PM Ismail Sabri to set aside the death penalty on Sirul so that Australia can send him back to Malaysia. Does Najib Razak have the balls to do that?
In the same breath, Najib should also welcome Azilah’s request for a retrial in an open court to provide full evidence of the 2006 murder. If the Malays, and the monarch for that matter, continue to vote and endorse Najib, it means not only they accept a crook and a serial liar, but also welcome a Muslim leader who engaged in anal sex and even a cold-blooded murderer.