The Franco-Spanish Scorpene diesel-electric attack submarine competes on the global market against an array of competitors, foremost of which is ThyssenKrupp HDW’s U209/212/214 family. In June 2002, the Malaysian government signed a EUR 1 billion contract with Armaris (now DCNS) and Spanish naval shipbuilder Izar (now Navantia) for 2 SSK Scorpenes and associated support and training. The first of class KD Tunku Abdul Rahman has begun trials, and is scheduled to enter service in 2009.
Within Malaysia, the sale has been compromised by an ongoing trial and set of legal actions around the public kidnapping and private execution of Mongolian modeling student, translator, and paramour Altantuya Shaariibuu. The case took a dramatic turn when the victim was closely connected to EUR 114 million in “commission” payments to Perimekar, a firm owned by a close associate of Malaysia’s current Defence Minister and impending Prime Minister. The monies were paid by Armaris (now DCNS) for for “support and coordination services,” a term that may bring to mind the murder of Taiwanese Captain Yin Ching-feng in connection with a bribery scandal involving Taiwan’s DCNS frigates.
Full and impartial accountability for public figures is not a prominent feature of Malaysian justice, but French Journalist Arnaud Dubus added to the pressure with a March 5/09 report in France’s Liberation, “Un cadavre tres derangeant: L’etrange affaire du meurtre d’une interprete mongole qui gene le pouvoir en Malaisie” (Page 30-31). It names very prominent names, offers details, and reveals the contents of documents the Malaysian court has refused to admit…
If the documents are true, Altantuya was murdered on the orders of Abdul Razak Baginda. Baginda is a close associate of Najib Razak, who is Malaysia’s Deputy PM and Minister of Defence, and impending Prime Minister. Baginda has been acquitted in a Malaysian court, but Razak himself has been implicated in the associated bribery deal, and Dubus’ report includes detauls of text messages Baginda was reportedly sent by Razak, which strongly imply efforts by Razak to cover up the case and interfere with police investigations.
The motive for Altantuya’s death was reportedly twofold: EUR 500,000 she wished to claim as her share of the “commission,” and the public embarrassment caused to Baginda’s marriage after she tried to collect. The kidnapping was carried out by by agents of the Malaysian Special Branch police, in broad daylight, in front of Baginda’s house, with witnesses present. Malaysian sources have not published full details, but media organizations outside of Malaysia have.
On March 16/09 the case took another turn when Malaysia’s ruling party suspended an opposition lawmaker for a year, after he called Razak a murderer and demanded that he answer questions about his role in the affair.
As is usually true in these operations, it’s the small details that matter. The entire wet operation apparently gave insufficient consideration to the payment of Altantuya Shaariibuu’s cab fare. Somewhere, a cadre of retired Bulgarian KDS professionals are shaking their heads, and wondering what’s wrong with the kids today.