KUALA LUMPUR • Fallen Malaysian leader Najib Razak is being questioned over the purchase of two French-made submarines, an official has said, the latest probe to engulf the former prime minister since his government's ousting.
Najib, his wife and key allies have been hit with a flurry of charges since his surprise election loss earlier this year as public anger crescendoed over a series of graft scandals.
Most of the charges have stemmed from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal where top officials allegedly looted billions from the government fund to go on a worldwide spending spree.
But the latest investigation centres on a controversial US$1.2 billion deal, signed 16 years ago when Najib was defence minister, to purchase two Scorpene-class submarines - KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and KD Tun Razak.
"Najib is being probed with regard to the purchase of the two Scorpene-class submarines," an official in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) familiar with the ongoing probe told Agence France-Presse yesterday.
"On Monday, MACC officials grilled Najib for four hours over the deal," the official added, requesting anonymity.
The submarine deal has long been mired in controversy.
The French submarine maker - then called DCNS - is alleged to have paid more than €114 million in kickbacks to a shell company linked to Mr Abdul Razak Baginda, a Najib associate who brokered the deal.
Mr Abdul Razak's Mongolian mistress Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was said to have demanded a cut for translating during the negotiations, was shot dead and her body blown up with military-grade plastic explosives near Kuala Lumpur in 2006.
The case fell off the radar after a Malaysian court in 2008 cleared Mr Abdul Razak of abetting the murder, sparking allegations of a huge cover-up to protect Najib.
But Najib's election defeat has reignited interest in the case from Malaysia's anti-graft body. The MACC official said Mr Abdul Razak may also be hauled up to assist in its investigation of the submarine purchase.
A French investigation since 2010 has already led to four French executives involved in the deal being charged, as well as an open criminal case against Mr Abdul Razak.
Both Mr Abdul Razak and Najib's government, as well as the four French executives, have denied any wrongdoing.
DCNS has since changed its name to Naval Group. It is part-owned by the French state and by French multinational giant Thales.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK