It certainly is good work if you can get it. As reported in the Financial Times, Abdul Razak Baginda was paid over €30 million for work as the middleman in a transaction between the French company Thales International Asia and Malaysian government for the sale of two submarines. The article said, “Mr. Baginda told the FT he was paid about €30m to consult on the French deal, lobby for it and oversee 8 years of execution.” There was no report on whether there was actually a signed contract which might specify Baginda’s duties.
This matter came to light because French prosecutors are investigating the transaction to determine if, the former President of Thales International Bernard Baiocco paid kickbacks to the embattled Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak to facilitate to the transaction. The Prime Minister is currently under investigation for his roles in other corruption scandals, although the Malaysian government entity charged with the investigation has cleared him of any criminal violations. Baginda was Thale’s agent on the transaction.
Yet it was the role of Baginda in ‘consulting’ on the transaction that has raised some significant red flags. Baginda, who is reported to be a director of the UK-based charity named Islamic Peace Foundation, told the FT “he had never been a paid advisor to Mr. Najib.” However, he had worked for the defense minster at the time of the contract award. Honoring long-standing British tradition, Baginda admitted he may have spoken to the defense minister about the contract “over a cup of tea.”
But wait, there is more! And, this being a good French corruption scandal, sex is involved. A former paramour of Baginda, a Mongolian woman named Altantuya Shaaribuu, was reported to have been murdered in 2006. Some groups have linked the killing, the submarine contract, Baginda and the Prime Minister. All living parties have denied any connection to any of the events.
The standard tests of whether someone is a corrupt sales representative or a valid agent include whether they actually did any work on the contract; whether there was a signed contract; where the sales agent was paid and other similar inquiries. I certainly appreciate the having a cup of tea to discuss transactions might be appropriate in a former British colony. But it certainly might be interesting to follow the trail of the €30 million to see where it went.