PARIS (AFP) – A French judge has charged the defence group Thales with complicity in bribery over a 2002 sale of submarines to Malaysia, sources close to the inquiry told AFP on Tuesday (April 26).
The long-running case into alleged kickbacks was opened in 2010 and eventually caught up with former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.
Najib was defence minister when the deal was signed to buy two Scorpene-class submarines and one Agosta submarine from French naval dockyards unit DCN, now part of Thales, in a deal worth US$1.2 billion.
Najib’s associate Abdul Razak Baginda acted as an adviser on the deal, and he is accused of disguising the kickback of more than 114 million euros ($121 million at the present-day exchange rate) as “consulting work” by a firm in which he was the largest shareholder.
The money was then allegedly given to Najib, who has faced a series of graft cases since he was voted out as Malaysia’s prime minister in 2018.
Razak Baginda was charged in France in 2017, while Najib has been questioned by Malaysian anti-graft investigators. In total nine defendants, including Thales, have been charged in France and the investigations were closed in January 2022, the sources said.
They also include Philippe Japiot, former chairman of the French naval dockyards unit DCN International, and Jean-Paul Perrier, a former Thales chief executive, along with two other former executives.
All four deny any wrongdoing and the Malaysian government has said the contract was free of corruption.
Contacted by AFP, Thales said “it strongly contests these allegations.”
Prosecutors from France’s PNF financial crimes office will now consider any further requests to the judge, who will have a final say on whether the case goes to trial, though an appeal was already filed in May 2021.