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Updated: Maltese company investigated in French arms sale bribery case

Updated - Adds comments in parliament by Evarist Bartolo -

A Maltese company is reportedly involved in a French investigation into bribery leading to French arms sales to Malaysia in 2002.

French investigators are investigating the sale of two submarines and a ship.

One of the French-built Malaysian submarines.One of the French-built Malaysian submarines.

The bribery money is believed to have been funnelled through companies in Malta, Luxembourg, Belgium and Hong Kong. 

French companies allegedly bribed Malaysian officials close to the Malaysian prime minister in order to win the €1 billion arms contract. The payments, exceeding €100 million, were hidden in the various companies in Europe.

Investigators are also looking into whether the murder of a model, Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006, was linked to the bribes. She had allegedly threatened to reveal the scam after a €500,000 commission promised to her was not paid and she was then shot dead and her body was blown up.

She used to work in Paris and was allegedly introduced to Abdul Razak Baginda, a defence analyst from the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre think-tank. She accompanied Abdul Razak to Paris where she worked as translator during his negotiations on the purchase of the submarines from France for the Malaysian government. The two quickly became romantically involved. She reportedly became his mistress in Paris in 2005.

CASE RAISED IN PARLIAMENT

Labour MP Evarist Bartolo referred to the case in parliament yesterday, noting that the Maltese company was called Gifen. It was a maritime services trading company set up in 2001 by  Peralta Custudian Ltd. Its registered offices were at Peralta Custodian until 2008 when it transferred to an Attard address.

It had as registered director a David Grech.

The company is still in existence but it was active between 2001 and 2004, the crucial years for the arms contract, Mr Bartolo said. It had a revenue of €1.4m at the time and paid €812,000 in consultancy work and travel expenses. The payments were made to a Cypriot company.

It was interesting, Mr Bartolo said, that the company in Malta was set up by Jean Marine Buvin, who was well known in major defence contracts in Asia.

Mr Bartolo said such cases harmed Malta's reputation financial services. He asked what the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and the MFSA would do about this case. Professions such as lawyers and auditors also had a duty to safeguard Malta's name by reporting abuses, he said.

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