Malaysia's audit into warship project appears to link minister, 'spouse' in deals

The Littoral Combat Ship for the Royal Malaysian Navy under construction by Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation. PHOTO: BERNAMA

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A woman named Zainab Mohd Salleh and her husband named as Abdul Latiff Ahmad have been identified in a Malaysian forensic audit report as those behind a company flagged for dubious transactions over a spare parts deal in the controversial RM9 billion (S$3.1 billion) warship project.

The report on the littoral combat ship (LCS) was declassified by the Malaysian government on Aug 10.

The report implicates one Zainab Mohd Salleh in "dubious transactions".

The forensic audit report also said a certain Abdul Latiff Ahmad is her spouse.

"It is noted that Abdul Latiff is the spouse of Zainab," read the report on the 2019 audit.

The person named Zainab was said to be a shareholder and director of Alizes Marine Ltd domiciled in Malta, as well as Intralogistics Ltd registered in Labuan, Malaysia. Intralogistics owns Alizes Marine Labuan and Sousmarin Armada Sdn Bhd.

She was also named as the shareholder of Mega P Sdn Bhd.

The identities of Ms Zainab and Mr Abdul Latiff in the LCS scandal came under intense scrutiny in Malaysia on Monday (Aug 22) after opposition leader Rafizi Ramli claimed that former deputy defence minister Datuk Abdul Latiff and "his second wife" Zainab withdrew more than RM200 million of funds linked to the warship project.

Mr Rafizi claimed that the funds were moved to companies based in Malta and Labuan, a tax haven island off the coast of Malaysia's Sabah state.

Mr Abdul Latiff said in a statement on Monday that the woman so named by Mr Rafizi, deputy president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, is not his wife.

Mr Abdul Latiff, who is today Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Special Functions) said he was ready to be investigated by the authorities on the matter.

The identities of the two people came under scrutiny after claims by opposition leader Rafizi Ramli (pictured). PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

The claims and counter-claim were in connection to the RM9 billion project of the the Royal Malaysian Navy. The navy in 2011 commissioned the construction of the six small warships from local ship builder Boustead Naval Shipyard, without an open tender.

The vessels, to be used to patrol Malaysia's shoreline, were to have been delivered from 2019 onwards, but none are ready today.

Five of the ships should have been delivered by this month, with the sixth scheduled to be delivered next year.

The bipartisan Public Accounts Committee, which reports to Parliament, said on Aug 4 that the first LCS was only about 44 per cent complete today.

The PAC report also said that RM1.4 billion of government funds were used by the contractor for other purposes.

In total, RM6 billion of the RM9 billion contract had been paid out, raising public anger.

The audit report noted that most of the "dubious" procurements were made through Alizes Marine, but that there were a few accounts using the name of Alizes Marine.

"These were created to impersonate Alizes Marine France so that payment could be channelled to a third party," the report added.

The report noted that Alizes Marine Labuan, which was registered on Feb 18,2011, was struck off in 2019 and ceased to exist at the time of the report and Alizes Marine Malta went into liquidation on Feb 4, 2014.

The forensic audit was ordered by Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation Bhd (BHIC) - the parent company of ship contractor Boustead Naval Shipyard, and undertaken by Alliance IFA (M) Sdn Bhd, Malaysiakini news site reported. The report was the second of two audit reports ordered to be declassified by the Cabinet on Aug 10.

In a brief statement on Facebook, Senior Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussien said BHIC has agreed to declassify the report, which is now posted on the Public Account Committee's website.

Still, many parts of the report have been redacted, including several paragraphs that appear just before Mr Abdul Latiff's purported relationship with Ms Zainab was mentioned, Malaysiakini said.

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