A political scandal is gathering steam in Malaysia with a purportedly “fake” Maltese offshore company being accused of fraudulently stealing over €5.1 million from a public contract to construct six littoral combat ships (LCSs) for the Malaysian navy.
Malaysian politician Rafizi Ramli, the deputy president of an opposition party, the People’s Justice Party (PKF), this week fired a broadside toward Malta and its offshore corporate structure regime, which was reported in several sections of the Malaysian media.
Ramli, in a widely-reported statement, has alleged that a fake Maltese company named Alizes Marine Ltd fraudulently transferred millions of euros from the LCS project to untraceable accounts overseas.
According to Ramli, the Malta-based firm was one of the companies identified by Malaysian shipbuilders Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation Berhad in an internal probe on the suspicious transactions.
The company’s probe, he said, found that the Malta-based firm alone had siphoned off over €5.1 million from the project through a series of bogus invoices sent to non-existent subcontractors between 2011 and 2015.
Research undertaken by The Shift shows that the Malta-based company, Alizes Marine Limited, was incorporated in Malta on 18 April 2011.
The vast majority of the Maltese company is owned by Intralogistics Limited, with an address in the offshore tax haven Anguilla in the Caribbean.
The remaining minority share of 0.08% is held by a certain Zainab Binit Mohd Salleh with an address in Selangor, Malaysia.
Records at the Malta Business Registry, however, only show that the company has been struck from the registry and further documentation and information on the company is unavailable after the purge of struck-off companies carried out by the MBR.
How the scam worked
According to the probe, Alizes Marine Ltd had been appointed to supply spare parts for the LCS project on the recommendation of DCNS, the French contractor that provided the project’s design and technical specifications.
Invoices for technical services and spare parts were sent to phoney subcontractors, and when the Malaysian authorities attempted to track the suppliers down, all they found were fake addresses for companies that didn’t exist.
According to Ramli, whose comments were reported extensively in the Malaysian press, fake companies were set up with names very similar to those of real companies. Invoices were then sent out from the real company, but payment instructions were directed to the fake companies.
In the case of the Malta-registered company, it appears the Malaysians thought they were doing business with Alizes Marine France and that Alizes Marine Ltd, which they believed to be a subsidiary, was the actual supplier of the parts.
Although the LCS project received invoices that appeared to have come from Alizes Marine France, the payments were actually made to an account in Singapore held by the Malta-based Alizes Marine Ltd, Ramli added.
The probe, Ramli said, has revealed that DCNS – a major French industrial group specialising in naval defence design, development and construction – used Alizes Marine Ltd as a “front” to skim from the supply of spare parts.
DCNS, founded in 1631 by none other than Cardinal Richelieu, and another French company allegedly also formed part of the scheme. There are still millions of euros missing and unaccounted for.