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Scorpene briefing: Other side invited as well

October 17, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR (FMT) : Lawyers from the French company involved in the multi-billion ringgit purchase of the Scorpene submarines have also been invited to Malaysia to explain their side of the issue. 

“It’s an invitation to both sides to give their versions of what is transpiring in France and what is the progress of the inquiry,” said Suaram secretariat member Cynthia Gabriel.

“It is certainly not a one-sided affair. It is an invitation to both Suaram’s lawyers and DCNS to come to provide a briefing to Parliament,” she added.

The former finance director of the French company, DCNS, had made a claim for two million euros allegedly used to bribe Malaysian officials in the purchase of the submarines, Suaram had said.

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim had earlier this month invited Suaram’s lawyers William Bourdon and Joseph Breham to brief the Malaysian Parliament on the latest status of the Scorpene probe.

The lawyers accepted Anwar’s invitation, and are now awaiting approval for their visas.

No reason to stop them

Asked whether DCNS’ lawyers had also accepted the invitation, Gabriel said she did not know as the invitation was issued by the parliamentarians.

But she hoped lawyers from both sides could give their briefings before the current Parliament session ends on Nov 22.

“It was an invitation sent out with the hope that the lawyers would be able to set foot into Malaysia without obstacle and hindrance with the sole objective of briefing elected representatives on the progress of the case.

“Why? Because this is an issue of major public interest. It is an issue that involves Malaysian taxpayers’ money and it runs into millions and millions of ringgit.

“So elected representatives have a right to know. They should be pursuing this case in Parliament and asking the right questions,” she said.

Garbiel urged the government to be open about receiving the lawyers, pointing out that as French citizens, neither Bourdon – who had been deported during his last visit here – nor Breham required visas to come to Malaysia for at least three weeks.

“This time, they are taking greater pains to apply for a working visa to visit their clients as well as to provide a formal briefing to Parliament,” she said.

“We urge the Foreign Ministry, the Home Ministry and the government not to obstruct their travel into Malaysia because it is a very legitimate reason that they are coming.

“What is there to fear? What is there to stop them? These are questions that the government needs to answer.

“Instead what we have seen so far are police reports lodged against members of parliament and against Suaram for foreign interference. It really doesn’t make sense to us,” she added.

Suaram refutes pro-govt NGOs’ claims

Meanwhile, Suaram founder and director Kua Kia Soong rubbished claims that France wished to interfere in Malaysia’s affairs, as alleged by pro-Barisan Nasional groups such as the Young Journalists Club and Jaringan Melayu Malaysia.

“Do you think the French really want to interfere with the Malaysian government? DCNS is a state company funded by French taxpayers, and their government is only interested in probing claims of corruption within their own country.

“They have absolutely no interest in interfering in Malaysian affairs,” he pointed out.

Secretariat member Fadiah Nadwa Fikri also refuted claims by the same NGOs that Suaram had misrepresented itself as a plaintiff in the inquiry.

Dzulkarnain Taib, president of the Young Journalists Club, had told reporters earlier this month that the French court had thrown out Suaram’s case over the Scorpene deal on March 12.

“We view the claim that Suaram has been accepted or recognised as a ‘civil party’ [plaintiff] as the biggest lie in the country’s political history,” he had said.

But Fadiah showed court documents dated April 11 naming Kua as the plaintiff in the case.

“It is a malicious accusation and total lie that we aren’t party to the investigations. These court documents from April 11 show we are plaintiffs and that we are definitely part of the judicial inquiry,” she said.

In April this year, the Tribunal de Grand Instance in Paris began its inquiry into Suaram’s claim that French naval firm DCNS had paid some RM452 million as a bribe to Malaysian officials to obtain a contract for two submarines.

Suaram had filed the complaint with the French courts in 2009.

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