Altantuya no role in Scorpene deal, negotiator claims

KUALA LUMPUR, July 27 – The propaganda often used by certain quarters relating to the gruesome murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, and its alleged link to the country’s leadership, has been torpedoed by the architect of the Scorpene submarine deal, who among others, revealed that the Mongolian model was never part of the negotiation team.

Speaking for the first time about the deal, Jasbir Singh Chahl, also swore that the model was never in France when they were trying to close the deal.

“I am willing to swear on my holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, that I did not know this person, that she was never part of the team, had never met her, that she was never in France during the entire time we were there trying to close the deal.

“I only knew about her when I read the papers in 2006, that they had found her body,” he told the New Straits Times in a special report entitled, ‘Scorpene: The Untold Story’, published here today.

Jasbir also pointed out that if Altantuya had acted as a translator for Abdul Razak Baginda, a local former political analyst who had helped him broker the deal, she should have been present during all the meetings from 2000.

On the contrary, in official French documents made available to the NST, the French police have stated categorically, that Altantuya never entered France from 1999 to 2006, the year she died.

It was also stated that all the meetings were held in France, with some in Malaysia, and were all in English.

“This is now what I am saying, you understand. This is what the relevant French authorities are saying,” said Jasbir.

Abdul Razak, who was a close associate of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, became prominent in 2006 when he was charged with abetting in the murder of the 28-year-old Altantuya after she allegedly tried to blackmail him for a US$500,000 cut from the deal.

He was acquitted on Oct 31, 2008 when the Malaysian High Court judge found no prima facie case against him, although two policemen linked to the murder were found guilty. 

According to Abdul Razak’s evidence in court, he had only met Altantuya in late 2004, whilst the Scorpene deal which entered negotiations in 2000, was concluded, two years later.

To a question on the necessity to appoint Altantuya as Abdul Razak’s interpreter, as she was widely referred to, especially through blogs, Jasbir was cynical in his reply:

“You ask me why the blogs have gone around calling this girl, Razak’s interpreter. You should direct that question to the blogs”.

The special report raised doubts on the necessity of hiring Altantuya as the interpreter, when the fact was that all negotiations with the French company were conducted in English.

The French team, in fact, was initially led by an Englishman, Martin Hill, who was also fluent in French, the report stated.

Additionally, in his deposition to the French authorities in 2010, former Direction des Construction Navales Services marketing manager for Malaysia and Singapore at that time, Fredric Faura, told investigators that there was no need for an interpreter since negotiations were in English and Malaysians were fluent in the language, it reported.

Firing another salvo, Jasbir wondered why no one had questioned the credibility of the opposition figure who had readily admitted to doctoring a photograph to show Altantuya with Najib and Abdul Razak, purportedly in a Paris restaurant.

“By his own admission, this whole affair was a personal matter between (Abdul) Razak and Altantuya. His dealing with her had nothing to do with the Scorpene deal.

“It’s unfortunate that it coincided with our timeline (the submarine deal). Razak was the only common denominator in this. He was the only link, and a tenuous one, at best,” he said.

Jasbir was a former staff of Thomson-CSF International (M) Sdn Bhd, the wholly-owned Malaysian subsidiary of France’s Thomson-CSF (now Thales), on the Royal Malaysian Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels project, the Crotale man-portable Shorad (short range air defence) system, and other projects of interest to Thomson-CSF and its subsidiaries.

His extensive experience in the field has led Thales to request him to analyse, evaluate and develop a proposal to supply submarines to Malaysia, which culminated in the Scorpene purchase, the report said. – Bernama