After 1 Murder, 2 Scorpenes & RM500 Million Commission; Najib To Buy 2 Mistrals For RM7 Billion?

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Sep 01 2015
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In June 2002, the Malaysian government signed a €1 billion (US$961 million; RM3.4 billion) contract with Armaris (now DCNS) and Spanish naval shipbuilder Izar (now Navantia) for 2 SSK Scorpenes submarines. Soon after delivery, embarrassingly, one of the submarines couldn’t dive.


However, the humiliation pale in comparison to the deal’s other scandals. A Mongolian model and translator – Altantuya Shaariibuu – was kidnapped before killed using military grade C4-explosive. The murder case took a dramatic turn when the victim was revealed to be linked to €114 million (RM500 million) in “commission”, being payments to Perimekar.

Altantuya Shaariibuu

If France’s Libération documents are true, Altantuya was murdered on the orders of Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Najib Razak, who was then Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. The motive for Altantuya’s death – she wished to claim €500,000 being her share of the “commission” for the submarines deal.


Now, after becoming Prime Minister of Malaysia and heavily accused in two other mega scandals – 1MDB RM42 billion debt and RM2.6 billion “donation” in private account – Najib administration is reportedly toying with the idea of buying two Mistral class helicopter carriers, which could cost taxpayers’ money to the tune of RM7 billion, or more depending on specifications.

Najib Razak Staring

Although opposition PKR secretary general Rafizi Ramli said Putrajaya is planning to purchase one of the two carriers for RM3.5 billion, defence industry news reported last week (26 August) that France may talk Malaysia into buying both carriers for the country. Under the pretext of redundancy or backup, it’s not hard to justify purchasing both carriers.


Initially, a €1.12 billion contract for construction of the two Mistral-class helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy was signed in June 2011 between the country and France. Russia was expected to receive the first of the two warships – the Vladivostok – in the autumn of 2014; while the second ship – the Sevastopol – would be handed over to Russia in the second half of 2015.

France Mistral Helicopter Carriers - Amphibious Attacks

However, President Francois Hollande cancelled the deal in 2014, following Russia’s continuing involvement in Ukraine and pressure from U.S., annexing the Crimean peninsula and reportedly arming pro-Russian separatists. Last week (28 August), France has reportedly returned Russia’s €900 million (US$1 billion) for failing to deliver both carriers.


If the old Scorpene submarines deal is any indicator, Malaysian government is highly expected to bulldoze the purchase of both carriers, with the French government expected to close one eye if there is a need to pay commission. The game play is, in case of a serious public uproar, Malaysian Defence Ministry, now under Najib’s cousin Hishammuddin Hussein, can at least buy one of the carriers.

Najib Razak and Hishammuddin Hussein

Since the cancellation of the deal with Russia, the French government desperately wants to get rid of both ships, which is costing taxpayers millions of Euros every month in upkeep. But even if Malaysia couldn’t buy due to financial constraints, there are at least 13 nations which have expressed interest – including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil, Canada, India and Singapore.

France Mistral Helicopter Carriers - Sketch and Spec Plan

Although the French government has paid compensation to Russia for terminating the contract, there could be some technical problems. According to source, France has not yet been given permission by Russia to “re-export” these two Mistral-class helicopter carriers to third countries. Apparently, the Mistrals are already built to Russian technical requirements.

France Mistral Helicopter Carriers - At Deck

The Russians were supposed to strip off France’s equipment onboard upon delivery. The hangers were built extra large to accommodate the Russian Kamov attack helicopter. Hence, the heavily customised carriers would be hard to sell, and the France is ready to make a loss on both giant machines.


Unless of course, France can find one or two “water fish”, a reference to mean stupid buyers who can be conned easily, or simply a buyer who doesn’t really care whether the Mistrals can float or swim, as long as they get their “commission”. Well, look no further because Malaysia is one ready “water fish” (*grin*).

France Mistral Helicopter Carriers - Sale Price Euro 1.2 Billion For Two Ships

France is putting a €1.2 billion (US$1.35 billion; RM5.62 billion) price tag for both Mistral-class helicopter carriers – negotiable. This means the price for each of the 21,000 tonne warship is €600 million (US$674 million; RM2.81 billion), which can easily be negotiated to RM2.6 billion, the same amount of money allegedly siphoned by Najib Razak.


As a benchmark, the French Navy owns three Mistrals and according to their information the cost of maintenance of the two Mistrals ships to be sold is at least €1 million (RM4.7 million) a month or roughly RM56 million a year. The maintenance costs include running the ships’ engines and keeping the rust at bay.

France Mistral Helicopter Carriers - Monthly Maintenance for Two Ships

A Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 NH90 or Tiger helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles including 13 AMX Leclerc tanks, or a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion, and 450 soldiers. The ships are equipped with a 69-bed hospital, and are capable of serving as part of a NATO Response Force.


As impressive as it may sound, the question remains if Malaysia is about to buy a white elephant which could end up as scrap metal. It’s worthwhile to point out that although 13 countries in the world have stated their interest, it would be over the next decade, not now. Only India and Turkey want delivery in the next few years.

Putin on Russian Navy Ship

Even so, both countries want the ships be built locally, not imported, and certainly not an already customised ships for Russian. Amazingly, the prime contractor for both the Mistrals is none other than DCNS, the same contractor that had supplied two Scorpenes to Malaysia, and quietly agreed in payment of €114 million (RM500 million) in “commission”.


Since Malaysia has no problem burning taxpayer’s money, as long as commission is included in the deal, France could happily sell both the carriers to the country, without any discount to the list price for obvious reason. Heck, both parties could even negotiate for non-existence items such as “consulting services”, not to mention inflate whatever outdated hardwares and softwares.

France Mistral Helicopter Carriers - Commission for Najib

Still, the French government could sell it to Egypt, who is receiving US$4 billion of general funding from Saudi Arabia. Egypt could use the two warships to transport 1,000 troops, armoured vehicles and helicopters to intervene in Yemen, Libya or other countries where a joint Arab force might become involved.


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