By K Kabilan
KUALA LUMPUR: French prosecutors will be interviewing private investigator P Balasubramaniam in Paris next week as part of their ongoing investigation into claims of corruption over a US$1.1 billion submarine deal linked to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
Balasubramaniam's lawyer Americk Singh Sidhu told FMT that he was informed by French lawyers of this latest development yesterday.
“Balasubramaniam will be travelling to Paris later next week to talk to the French prosecutors,” he said.
He added that it was an irony that the French prosecutors were ready to talk to Balasubramaniam but not the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers.
He was referrring to the MACC's decision yesterday not to send its officers to London to record statements from Balasubramaniam in the murder trial of Mongolian Altantuya Shariibuu.
MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Mohd Shukri Abdull had said Balasubramaniam would instead be asked to answer questions which would be submitted through his lawyer in the form of a sworn statement or affidavit, as advised by the Attorney-General.
Americk said he was disappointed with the MACC's decision not to fly out to London to meet Balasubramaniam as was previously agreed upon.
“I just find it interesting that the French don't seem to have a problem in taking Balasubramaniam's statement unlike our MACC and its legal advisers,” he said.
“We will, however, continue with our plan in London. We have arranged for a press conference on July 7 and that will proceed,” he added.
He also said that Balasubramaniam and his team of lawyers will be present at the Holiday Villas in Bayswater, London, at 10am on July 5 for the arrival of the three MACC officers who are supposed to interview Balasubramaniam as arranged and promised.
“Bala was available at all times and the MACC knew this. We have documents to prove we had informed them of our willingness to cooperate as far back as December last year. Why is everyone becoming so coy at the eleventh hour?
“It is nothing less than astounding to realise that an authority such as the MACC, which would have been expected to have done everything in its power to investigate the very serious allegations made against the prime minister, his wife and his brother, would now forfeit that opportunity on tenuous and exasperatingly flimsy grounds...
“They know full well that much preparation has gone into organising this interview and to then pull out at the very last moment is contrary to the false perceptions created by them up till now,” he said.
Controversial statutory declarations
Balasubramaniam created controversy on July 3, 2008, when he distributed a sworn deposition in connection with Altantuya’s murder.
His statement alleged links between Najib's close friend Abdul Razak Baginda and the deceased.
The next day, the private investigator retracted his statutory declaration and subsequently left the country with his family.
On Oct 27 last year, in the presence of three prominent lawyers, Balasubramian came out of hiding and reaffirmed that his first statutory declaration was true and that he was offered RM5 million to retract it.
In the no-holds-barred interview, he named businessmen Deepak -- who is said to be an associate of Rosmah Mansor, the prime minister's wife -- as the person who met him at a Rawang restaurant and made the cash offer.
He also claimed that Najib’s brother Nazim offered him RM5 million to retract the first statutory declaration, a charge which the prime minister has rubbished.
MACC had already recorded statements from Nazim and Deepak.
The French investigation, meanwhile, stemmed from a request of Malaysian human rights group which alleged that French shipbuilder DCN paid a commission of U$150 million (114 million euros) to a company called Perimekar in the sale of two Scorpene submarines to Malaysia.
Perimekar is linked to Abdul Razak Baginda and he was later acquitted on charges of abetting the 2006 murder of his mistress Altantuya, who was a translator in the submarine deal.
Najib, defense minister when the deal was brokered, has defended the submarines' purchase and denied any involvement in Altantuya's murder.