Written by Nawawi Mohamad, Wong Choon Mei
Did Prime Minister Najib Razak send Umno’s top legal eagle off to Europe for some derring-do and hush-hush activity?
So far, two versions have hit the news portals. One, that Shafee Abdullah is in Australia attending an international law conference as any diligent and good lawyer should do. Two, that he is now somewhere in Europe, most likely Paris, where he has been tasked to look after the interest of the Malaysian PM and wife Rosmah Mansor in connection to the RM7.3 billion Scorpene corruption scandal.
Whichever it is, Shafee is but the mere hired help – the butler so to speak. The interesting question is, what stinky stuff do Najib and Rosmah have in their closets that cannot be aired publicly?
Why not Anifah or Muhyiddin …
As the saying goes, no smoke without fire. No reaction without action. Thus, the buzz around town. Why on earth would Najib find the need to send someone off on this rather strange assignment? It really is like a â€œJames Bondâ€ mission but without the action, guns and the beauties in bikinis and plunging necklines. Or rather, not since the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu anyway. The 28-year-old Mongolian translator was a stunning beauty, that’s for sure, and she was somehow tied up with the Scorpenes case as her dad Setev Shaariibuu is due to reveal to the French courts soon.
In the olden days, an assignment of this nature would be seen as being akin to Genghis Khan sending a trusted general to size up the next country he planned to conquer. Or Henry VIII sending a trusted confidant to check out the prospects of successfully hooking a new wife. But given that Rosmah’s name was also mentioned by PKR leaders when they divulged Shafee’s alleged assignment, it must be somewhere in between.
Since Malaysia is in no position to conquer any country, the alleged assignment must be related to a very personal and private matter. Incidentally, Malaysians, having recently experienced being duped to pay for Najib’s guests during his daughter’s engagement parties, had better beware of yet another grand onslaught on their public coffers.
If it was a mission of diplomacy, surely Najib would turn to Anifah Aman, the Foreign minister. If it was political, Muhyiddin Yassin, the deputy prime minister should go.
Since there have not been any news of threats against Najib, his children or even his unpopular wife, the ‘assignment’ is unlikely to involve their personal, family or national security. There were also those who wondered if it was a ‘health issue’, but looking at how chubby and in the pink of health Najib and Rosmah are, that is unlikely.
Obviously a personal matter of a very sensitive nature …
Perhaps, the clue lies in the fact that Shafee is a lawyer. Yes, as far as most Malaysians are concerned, the cat is out of the bag. The French Scorpene trial has finally begun. Najib, Defense minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Abdul Razak Baginda are key witnesses to be called to the stand over whether French arms seller DCN had paid “specific” Malaysian officials illegal kickbacks in order to secure the Malaysian government’s agreement to buy 2 Scorpene submarines for RM7.3 billion.
So obviously it makes sense Najib and Rosmah would want their lawyer to represent them – someone entrusted to answer all the relevant questions on their behalf and also to make the necessary denials. Since this involves a head of government, Najib’s grilling will be done in a closed courtroom and of course, nothing will be made public. An experienced legal beagle like Shafee would set this as a first condition before agreeing to take part.
But why would Najib agree to such request from the French court? Look at the arrogant way in which he and Rosmah showed contempt for the due process in Malaysia when they snubbed a request to take the witness stand in the Anwar Ibrahim trial.
No traction in France
Ah! That is the nutshell, the essence of the way that the Umno elite see life. They have two perspectives. In Malaysia, everything is under their control, from the police, to the courts to the press. Notice, not a squeak in Utusan, the Star or the other mainstream media about the globe-trotting Shafee nor the French court agreeing with Malaysian NGO SUARAM that there is ground to investigate alleged corruption and bribery.
But in France, if Najib were to ignore a call to answer questions in relation to the DCN sale in which he as the Defense minister in 2002 had sanctioned, it would immediately raise eyebrows. Already the diplomatic corp is whispering about his greed and indiscretions. It would certainly not do for it to be officially recorded that Najib – the Malaysian PM – had failed to respond to what is a perfectly normal request that any RESPONSIBLE person, what more a leader, should willing agree to.
After all, what is the purpose of the French trial but to find out the truth in the name of transparency and justice for a society – in this case the Malaysian people – who may have been duped of their hard-earned money by an unscrupulous conspiracy of big-time crooks.
Of course, the court can find Najib ‘innocent’. But given he was the main person behind the purchase, the chances are slimmer. Would a soldier or his general get a bribe of RM570 million to buy the subs? Would a soldier have the capability to sanction the purchase in the first place? The answers are clear and self-explanatory.
Who is Najib to Sarkozy or the rest of the world?
But why did Najib not seek the help of the French government. President Nicholas Sarkozy himself has been implicated in other shady DCN-related arms deals. After all, Najib is king of the â€œI scratch your back, you scratch mineâ€ business. Even to voters at Malaysian by-elections, Najib can unashamedly say such things, so why not sound out Sarkozy in faraway France who must surely understand the stress his Malaysian counterpart is going through given his own recent experience.
The are several answers to this question. Firstly, Sarkozy does not want to be tainted with anymore of the DCN dirt. The French conglomerate has been involved in just too many dark deals. Mysterious deaths have occurred because the size of the bribes offered have been so huge, those who received the largesse would do ‘anything’ to hang onto their new-found but unsavory wealth.
Sarkozy has already been slapped on the wrist and if he wants to continue to be the French president, which he does, why should he stick his neck out? Moreover who is Najib? Sarkozy would not waste his time and reputation on a person he hardly knows and who has absolutely no stature in the international arena.
Why the James Bond secrecy if not guilty?
No matter, how much of Malaysians’ money Najib squanders on international public consultants, he cannot come anywhere near his arch rival Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is known far and wide and respected as a reformist. Even Nelson Mandela sent greetings and a personal invitation to Anwar and family when the Malaysian leader was released from incarceration in 2004 imposed by ex-boss Mahathir Mohamad.
The thing is, if Najib is truly innocent and the French court has no evidence whatsoever – as his underlings are desperately spreading down the corridors of Putrajaya – why didn’t Najib announce to the world that he is sending a lawyer to clarify the matter? Why didn’t the Malaysian premier make a public declaration that he is innocent and the truth will be made clear in the French trial?
That would be the right protocol and he would have been respected for having the moral integrity to stand on the right side of the light. Instead, Najib Razak secretively sent his â€œJames Bondâ€ lawyer off on a mysterious mission. If Najib is innocent, he should not be afraid as he has nothing to hide.
So, sad to say, this is another damning piece of evidence against the Malaysian prime minister and his wife. Their own behavior and apparent fear of being found out already pinpoints them.
Money, money, money
Finally, why was it stated in the news reports that the Umno lawyer would go to several cities including New York, London, Dubai, Paris and Basel? Now, this is INTERESTING. You see, New York, London and Dubai are the worldâ€™s financial centres and Basel is located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet.
Could Najib be involved in some financial transaction or other? Basel is quite a strategic city for any lawyer to be in. For example, Najib’s own lawyer can attend the court in Paris and then go to the Swiss banks to check on his client’s accounts – maybe even to get some hard cash to defray some of his expenses.
Some of the Opposition members even suspect Najib of trying to use cash to gain some favors with the French authorities, especially the DCN officials so as not to implicate him and his associates such as Razak Baginda.
Yet others think Najib is trying to get into Altantuya’s father’s good books so that the former university professor will not blow the whistle on him. Remember, Altantuya’s dad has seen a photo of his daughter with Najib and Baginda. He has said that she came to Malaysia to see Najib specifically. Sad to say, she was murdered because she allegedly pestered too hard for her share of the Scorpene loot.
There is even some wild conjecture that Najib is contemplating going overseas on self-exile. But this is ridiculous since at the moment he is free to go anywhere in the world. Just resign and go. Nobody would stop him and he can go wherever he likes.
Even if the outcome of the French trial is against him, Najib and family would be most welcome in Kazakhstan, which is ruled by an even more scandal-tainted dictator and where the Najibs have relatives by marriage.
But chances are if Najib goes to France and Mongolia, he might get arrested.