Last month PKR deputy leader Rafizi Ramli revealed astonishing information about the way contracts were handled in the so-called Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) affair, where RM9 billion has been wasted on six naval boats that were never built.
One of the most blatant and egregious misappropriations, according to a report by the Malaysian contractor Boustead, related to a French middleman company named Alizes Marine, which was a subsidiary of a parts provider Ameris France.
Ameris had in turn been recommended for the job by the major French defence contractor DCNS, which was commissioned to design the boats in 2011.
However, in fact, the parts to be supplied under this secretive subsection of the Boustead contract related not to the boats in question but to submarines that had supposedly been completed under another earlier contract also involving DCNS.
The conclusion might be that the €50 million that went into this series of supplies were to plug a hole in the previous Scorpene submarine contract, which has already been exposed as being riddled with kickbacks. However, in a characteristically corrupted twist, much of the money that went to Alizes Marine also went missing!
What Rafizi has alleged, based on the facts laid out in the Boustead report, is that money was siphoned out of the Alizes Marine contract using off-shore subsidiaries which had the exact same name but were owned by different shareholders. This, as corruption trackers by now know, was a well-worn Malaysian trick in the realm of public contracts under the Najib administration.
Alizes Marine France was owned by Ameris France and directed (perhaps interestingly) by its CEO Viktoria Barrier, a Slovak national who happens to be the wife of the President of Ameris France, Thierry Barrier.
Alizes Malta and Alizes Labuan (with accounts in Singapore) were on the other hand controlled by a lady called Zainab Mohd Salleh and someone who lived next door to her in Kuala Lumpur.
This lady was identified by the auditors as having been the wife of Abdul Latiff Ahmad, Malaysia’s deputy defence minister from 2008 to 2013 and now a minister in Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s office.
Invoices issued by Viktoria Thierry in France, according to flow charts drawn up by the auditors, were apparently instructed to be paid to the off-shore subsidiaries which resulted in all but some €3 million disappearing off-shore into a Singapore account controlled by Zainab Mohd Salleh.
As an aside, the official in charge of the project for Boustead, Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor, has recently himself been arrested for allegedly receiving kickbacks of some RM21 million.
When the explosive story came out Abdul Latif first clarified he was not married to a separate executive of the same name and then issued a statement he is not married to any Zainab Mohd Salleh. However, there has been pushback to suggest that he was at the time but has since divorced.
Meanwhile, Ameris’s Thierry Barrier has confirmed much of Rafizi’s information stating to Intelligence Online that the off-shore Alize Marine companies are imposters and have nothing whatsoever to do with Ameris France:
“This is clearly a case of usurpation of the names of our companies and identities, of embezzlement, with which the Ameris Group companies, Ameris France and Alizes Marine France have no involvement”. [Ameris statement]
Given such devastating corroboration from a senior French executive of the claim by Boustead’s own auditors that the contract was looted through bogus Alizes off-shore companies, one would have assumed that the MACC, Malaysian police forces and all the instruments of law and order would have been urged by ministers to leap into an immediate investigation of Alizes Labuan/Alizes Malta and its mystery Malaysian owners.
To the contrary, there has been silence on that front. Instead of explaining who the contractor his department was dealing with offshore was, Abdul Latif has issued a police report claiming to have been defamed by Rafizi. Likewise, a ministerial ally, Mohd Puad Zarkashi, has demanded Rafizi produce a marriage certificate (by stealing if need be) to prove the alliance!
Yet, if the forces of law and order were to do their job and question both this Malaysian minister and the French president of Ameris, both men are in a position to provide vital information as to who the Alizes Labuan/Malta director and shareholder, Binti Zainab Mohd Salleh, is.
This is because the Boustead auditors have shown that BOTH these men were later involved as directors and shareholders in yet another company called Mega P Asia Sdn Bhd together with Zainab herself as the largest shareholder.
The Malaysian register of companies tells an interesting story with regard to that arrangement in that Ameris president Thierry Barrier and defence minister Abdul Latif jointly set up the company in 2015 as directors and distributed the shares between themselves and Zainab thus: Barrier 1 share; Abdul Latif 105,001 shares; Zainab 245,000 shares.
Barrier pulled out as director and shareholder in 2017, handing his share to Abdul Latif. The former defence minister hung on to his share and directorship right until March 2020, at which point he resigned as director and handed all his shares over to Zainab who now has 350,002 shares.
Thierry Barrier has acknowledged that Mega P Asia was a Malaysian branch of yet another subsidiary of Ameris France called Mega P that was receiving other parts of the LCS contract from Boustead. When challenged, he told Intelligence Online that the Malaysian company was set up “only to ensure contractual consistency“.
So, who was the ubiquitous Zainab in all these deals and why was the then ex-defence minister (Abdul Latif moved from defence in 2013) a major shareholder with her in a company linked to a former French contractor that he had overseen and which was now receiving more LCS contracts through Mega P Asia?
Abdul Latif can hardly have forgotten these matters as he was a fellow shareholder with Zainab and still director of the company until a couple of years ago, at which point he resigned and handed her his shares. Was this part of some settlement?
Why should Rafizi be expected to explain this matter and not Abdul Latif?
There is another extremely telling detail noted by the auditors, which is that Zainab was the first to get going with the Alizes Marine network of companies, having set up her Malta branch and her Labuan branch in early 2011 several months BEFORE the ‘parent company’ Alizes Marine France was established as a subsidiary of Ameris France being run by Thierry Barrier’s own wife.
Is it is a step too far to ask people to believe that the President of Ameris France knew nothing of these bogus subsidiaries before he named his own subsidiaries after them?
Or that Alizes France, managed by his own wife, was raising invoices with requests that the payments go through these off-shore companies rather than direct to Paris, where they never arrived – according to information in the flow chars produced by the Boustead auditors?
Perhaps there are explanations that can be provided by that Ameris hierarchy which will surely help Malaysia pinpoint what was happening with the mysterious Zainab. The same goes for Abdul Latif.
However, instead of chasing this missing money, it seems Bukit Aman have acted to detain Rafizi, question him and grab his mobile phone, based on the complaint by Abdul Latif that Zainab has been misidentified.
Huge amounts of Malaysian public money has gone missing (yet again) from this contract. And Abdul Latif knows who Zainab is. Why are the Malaysian police questioning the wrong man and harassing (yet again) the whistleblower in this affair rather than seeking the perpetrators?