16 January, 2007

Malaysia's Anwar urges probe of Russian jet deal

Opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday questioned the integrity of Malaysia's purchase of Russian warplanes, and asked the police and the anti-corruption agency to probe the deal.

Malaysia ordered 18 Sukhoi SU-30MK planes in 2003, the first of which was originally due for delivery in 2006. Malaysia has yet to receive the aircraft.

The $900-million deal includes a plan to put a Malaysian astronaut into space and palm oil sales to Russia.

IMT Defence Sdn Bhd, a privately held Malaysian firm headed by former cabinet minister Mohd Adib Adam, was the agent for the deal, local media have reported.

Anwar, former deputy prime minister until he was arrested in September 1998 and thrown in jail after he challenged then premier Mahathir Mohamad, said IMT was set to receive $108 million, or 12 percent of the purchase price, as commission.

Anwar claimed he has evidence to prove commissions were paid, but said he could not disclose it.

"Why do we see a pattern of questionable agents being appointed in procurement deals worth billions of ringgit by the Ministry of Defence?" he asked.

"Ultimately, we want to know: Who are the real beneficiaries of these dubious defence deals," he told a news conference.

IMT officials were not immediately available for comment. A press secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is also the Defence Minister, said he had no immediate comments.

Anwar said appointing an agent in such deals was uncommon in Malaysia.

"Normally, in major contracts or procurement of weapons or military hardware, it's either government-to-government or between the government and the manufacturer," he said.

Malaysia's Anti-Corruption Agency director of investigation Mohd Shukri Abdull was attending a meeting and was not immediately available.


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