A French lawyer said Friday he is being deported from Malaysia, and the human rights group he represents accused the government of paranoia after he spoke about a pending corruption trial over a $1.2 billion submarine deal.
William Bourdon arrived in northern Penang state Thursday and spoke at a dinner about the French court case set for trial in September, said Cynthia Gabriel of the Malaysian rights group Suaram.
When Bourdon traveled to Kuala Lumpur on Friday, “a police officer came to get me in the plane, and then I was escorted to the immigration office,” Bourdon told The Associated Press.
After a two-hour wait, he was given an expulsion order and told to get a plane ticket home, at his own expense, and will be held in the airport detention center until then, he said.
Government officials couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Suaram filed complaints with a French prosecutor in 2009 alleging corruption in a 114 million euro ($164 million) fee that shipbuilder DCNS paid to Malaysian firm Perimekar Sdn. Bhd. to facilitate the submarine deal.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has denied there was any corruption. He was defense minister in 2002, when Malaysia ordered the two diesel-electric Scorpene attack submarines as part of a naval upgrade. It has since received both the submarines.
In his talk Thursday, Bourdon gave an update about the status of the case, on the French judicial system and what to expect from the trial, Gabriel said.
“He didn’t reveal anything damning. This is just an act of paranoia, another irrationality by the government. They are afraid of their own shadows,” she said.
Bourdon said he told the police he didn’t understand the expulsion and the decision lacks any justification. “No explanation was given to me,” or to the French Embassy representative who accompanied him, he said.
“I told them I acted as a lawyer, in full respect of my duties and the rules of my profession, and in respect of international law and national laws,” he said in a phone interview.
Malaysian defense officials have said the fee was paid to Perimekar for coordination and support services. But critics argued that Perimekar was formed only a few months before the contract was inked, had no track record in submarine services and didn’t have the financial ability to support the contract.
Suaram has said it plans to take legal action against Perimekar and the Malaysian government if the French court rules there is corruption by DCNS.
The case could embarrass Najib and hamper his ruling coalition’s effort to bolster support ahead of general elections that many expect to be held next year.
Perimekar is owned by the wife of Abdul Razak Baginda, a controversial figure who once was Najib’s aide and a close friend.
Abdul Razak was acquitted in 2008 of abetting in the murder of his ex-mistress, a Mongolian woman. He confessed to having an affair with her and said she was blackmailing him. The woman was shot and her body blown up with military-grade explosives in October 2006.
Two policemen working in security were later convicted and sentenced to death for murdering the Mongolian, although prosecutors failed to show any motive. Suaram has said initial investigations by their French lawyers showed the Mongolian had worked as a translator for Abdul Razak in the submarine deal. -AP