Scandal Scorpene timbul di Malta pula...

Skandal kapal selam Scorpene Malaysia nampaknya telah melebar ke kepulauan Mediterranean Malta, di mana seorang anggota parlimen pembangkangnya mendakwa bahawa perunding kewangan yang berpangkalan di Malta milik Perancis, sedang disiasat kerana peranannya dalam pembelian kontroversi dua kapal selam itu pada berharga AS$1 (RM3.1 bilion) oleh kerajaan Malaysia.

Menurut portal berita - Malta Today - MP Evarist Bartolo memberitahu parlimen Malta bahawa perunding kewangan milik Perancis, Gifen, sedang disiasat oleh pegawai Perancis berhubung dakwaan sebahagian daripada 114 juta euro (RM457 juta) komisen yang dibayar kepada Perimekar Sdn Bhd, yang dimiliki sepenuhnya oleh Abdul Razak Baginda, rakan rapat Perdana Menteri Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, telah 'dibersihkan' melalui Malta.

Komisen Perimekar telah dikritik sebagai satu dalih untuk sogokan kepada tokoh politik.

Laporan lain dari Malta mendakwa bahawa Gifen telah ditubuhkan oleh Jean-Marie Bouvin, yang juga banyak terlibat dalam penjualan kapal selam dari syarikat pertahanan milik Perancis, DCN, kepada Pakistan dan kapal frigat kepada Taiwan (kanan).

Pendakwa Perancis dikatakan telah menemui kaitan Gifen selepas mereka meneliti dokumen dan laporan sulit dalaman DCN dan Kementerian Pertahanan Perancis serta menemuduga pegawai DCNS (dahulunya dikenali sebagai DCN) dan syarikat-syarikat yang berkaitan seperti Thales serta pegawai di kementerian berkenaan.

Bartolo mendakwa, syarikat-syarikat lain yang didakwa digunakan untuk tujuan yang sama ialah Eurolux, yang berpangkalan di Luxembourg, dan Technomar, yang berpejabat di Belgium.

Bartolo seterusnya mendakwa Gifen, yang diasaskan pada tahun 2001 oleh Bouvin, mempunyai kaitan rapat dengan perkhidmatan perisikan Perancis, dan mempunyai hubungan rapat dengan bekas Presiden Perancis Nicolas Sarkozy dan Perdana Menteri Dominic de Villepin.

Malta Today melaporkan, selepas Perancis menandatangani Konvensyen PBB Menentang Rasuah, Bouvin didakwa mula beroperasi melalui saluran lain - menubuhkan syarikat di Ireland, Switzerland, Mauritius, Isle of Man dan Malta.

Nama Sarkozy (kiri) telah disebut berkaitan dengan rasuah besar-besaran yang dijanjikan kepada para jeneral Pakistan bagi pembelian kapal selam SSK Scorpene dari Armaris, yang kini menjadi sebuah unit pertahanan DCNS di Perancis.

Sebelas juruteknik Perancis telah diletupkan dengan bom kereta yang pada mulanya dipersalahkan kepada Al-Qaeda.

Bagaimanapun, cerita berikutnya di Perancis, yang dipanggil "L'Affaire Karachi," mendakwa jeneral Pakistan meletupkan van tersebut sebagai membalas dendam ekoran pembatalan bayaran sogokan oleh presiden ketika itu, Jacques Chirac.

Sarkozy menafikan sebarang penglibatan dalam skim sogokan tersebut. Bagaimanapun, berikutan dia kehilangan jawatan presiden Perancis kepada Francois Hollande, penyiasat mungkin meneliti semula aktivitinya. - Asia Sentinel

Report from Malta Today...

Maltese company implicated in French anti-corruption sting

Yesterday's Parliamentary discussion took an unexpected turn, when Opposition MP Evarist Bartolo used his adjournment speech to highlight details of an ongoing international criminal investigation into a complex web of murder, intrigue and scandal in which a Maltese company is understood to be involved.

According to the investigation cited by Bartolo in parliament yesterday, a French-owned, Malta-based financial consultancy services called 'Gifen' is involved in a money-laundering operation which is in turn connected to: a €1 billion contract for the purchase of military submarines from France by the Malaysian government in 2002; allegations of a €114 million 'commission' that changed hands during negotiations between French and Malaysian officials; and - most sinister of all - the kidnapping and violent murder of a Mongolian modelling student in Malaysia in 2006.

In parliament yesterday, Bartolo revealed how this complex bribery/murder scenario, that has caused scandal in both Malaysia and France over the past decade, has now also managed to finds its way here to Malta: with a Maltese company currently being investigated by French officials over allegations of laundering part of the money involved in this transaction..

The former Education Minister revealed how French inquiring magistrates have now ordered the police to initiate an international investigation into a number of companies based in France, Luxembourg and Hong Kong - including one in Malta - as part of a global anti-corruption sting.

The story opens in June 2002, when, after three years of negotiations, the Malaysian government concluded a €1 billion deal with French company Armaris (now DCNS) and Spanish naval shipbuilder Izar (now Navantia) for the purchase of 2 SSK Scorpene submarines, as well as associated support and training.

The contract was signed by Malyasia's minister of defense (now prime minister) Najib Razak, and allegations quickly followed that DCSN had previously been sold confidential information relating to their bid by Malaysian companies understood to be close to Razak.

One company named in the initial rumours was Perimekar, owned by Razak's close associate, the prominent Malaysian businessman Abdul Razak Baginda.

But it was with the 2006 murder of 28-year-old Mongolian modelling student Altantuya Shaaribuu that suspicions of high-level corruption started to gain ground in earnest.

In March 2009, French Journalist Arnaud Dubus published a report in France's Liberation, citing hundreds of confidential documents, which suggested a connection between the mysterious murder of the student-model, and a 'commission' of around €114 million paid to Perimekar in connection with the Scorpene submarine deal.

The motive for Altantuya's death was reportedly that she had claimed a €500,000 share of the "commission" paid to Baginda (who appears to have also been her lover) for the purchase of the submarines... and then threatened to reveal all that she knew about this case if her demand was not met.

According to documents made public by French newspaper 'Liberation', Altantuya had been murdered on the orders of Abdul Razak Baginda, who was later acquitted on all charges by a Malaysian court
However, Prime Minister Razak himself has now been implicated in the associated bribery deal, and Dubus' report includes details of text messages he had reportedly sent Baginda, which in turn strongly imply a cover-up and interference with police investigations.

The kidnapping itself was carried out in broad daylight in front of Baginda's house in the presence of eye-witnesses. And in a detail that could easily have emerged from a James Bond movie, the perpetrators were later identified only because the taxi-driver who had been hired by Altantuya for the day, reported the kidnapper's car licence plate to the police... officially as part of a complaint that he had not been paid for his services.

Police investigations traced the vehicle to Malaysian Special Branch police, causing embarrassment to the government, and awakening curiosity among the local press.

But while the Malaysia investigations have apparently stalled, French investigators soon took an interest in a case which appears (if allegations are true) to also point fingers at one of France's top names in the shipbuilding industry.

French investigating magistrates are now looking into a Hong Kong-based company called Terasasi (Hong Kong) Ltd. Abdul Razak Baginda is listed as one of the two directors of the company. The other director is his father, Abdul Malim Baginda
Where does Malta come in?

In parliament yesterday, Evarist Bartolo revealed that among the several companies worldwide currently investigated by French authorities in connection with this case is Gifen: a Malta-based company founded in 2001 by Frenchman Jean-Marie Bouvin, who has long been associated with the sale of military and defence equipment to countries such as Malaysia, Pakistan and Taiwan.

On paper, Gifen offers consultancy services, and Bartolo said in parliament yesterday that its sole director is listed as David Grech, with Noelle Grima as company secretary until March 2011, when Edward Attard Montalto also joined the firm.

Its auditors are Attard Giglio and Co.

Bartolo noted also that Gifen's most active years were between 2001 and 2004, with an income of almost €1.5 million, while its registered expenses took the form of 'consultancy services' and 'travelling expenses'.

Bartolo added that French investigators are currently looking into whether Gifen was used "to facilitate the movement of money involved in this contract", as well as to pay for travelling expenses incurred by Baginda and Altantuya. Other companies allegedly used for similar purposes are Eurolux (based in Luxembourg) and Technomar, based in Belgium.

Bartolo further alleged that Bouvin, who had founded Gifen in 2001, was very well-connected with the French secret services, and close ties both with (then) President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister de Villepin.

According to the Opposition MP, Bouvin would pay commissions, through a company called Heine, in order to secure successful bids for public contracts.

After France signed the UN Convention Against Corruption, Bouvin allegedly began to operate though different channels - setting up companies in Ireland, Switzerland, Mauritius, the Isle of Man... and Malta.

Bartolo added that responsibility to regulate such operations in Malta fell to the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and the Malta Financial Services Authority, and that the reputation of Malta as a centre for financial services was at stake. He reminded the Houseof a report by the Council of Europe's Committee on Money Laundering, which had observed that Malya's legislation is good, but enforcement is lacking.

Malta Today

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