A DECADE OF BAD KARMA FOR NAJIB & ROSMAH: ALTANTUYA WOULD BE 38 IF NAJIB’S BODYGUARDS DID NOT MURDER HER
It will soon be 10 years since Altantuya Shaariibuu, a jet-setting Mongolian translator and party girl, was murdered sensationally in a patch of jungle outside the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Petaling Jaya on the night of Oct. 19, 2006. Although the two elite policemen who were convicted of killing her, the party who ordered her execution has never been identified and justice remains unfulfilled.
The 28-year-old beauty’s death has connections to one of the biggest scandals in Malaysian history although that scandal has since been superseded by another that dwarfs it – the disappearance of as much as US$7 billion, lost from the state-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd. Investment fund. Both of those scandals can be laid directly on the doorstep of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The death of Altantuya Shaariibuu also has disturbingly close relations to the Prime Minister, through the people who killed her.
At the time of her death, Altantuya had just been jilted abruptly by a prominent defense consultant and Najib’s close friend, the married Abdul Razak Baginda, after accompanying him to France in the later stages of an agreement by the French defense giant DCN to sell two Scorpene submarines to Malaysia for US$1 billion. Najib is widely believed to have been along on the trip.
French prosecutors have alleged that €114 million in kickbacks were routed to the United Malays National Organization, the country’s leading political party, through a company called Perimekar that Razak Baginda had established just prior to the transaction. Another €28 million was routed to a Hong Kong-based company called Terasasi Ltd. whose principal officers were Razak Baginda and his father Two French officials have been charged in court with bribing Najib, who was defense minister when the Scorpene transaction took place.
According to the documents obtained by Asia Sentinel, the money was passed on with the knowledge of then-French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and then-Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
In documents obtained by Asia Sentinel in 2012, French officials identified Altantuya as a translator during the final preparations between the two governments to hand over the vessels to Malaysia. A French official later paid for a trip by Razak Baginda and Altantuya to Macau on holiday.
According to a sworn statement by the late private investigator Perumal Balasubraniam, Razak Baginda told him he had in effect inherited Altantuya from Najib himself. According to Bala’s statement, Najib at the time was defense minister and expected to become prime minister – and a Mongolian beauty and mistress wouldn’t have looked good.
In an undelivered letter found in her hotel room after her death, she admitted having demanded US$500,000 in “blackmail” but also wrote, I’m (a) nice person. I can’t hurt someone but (Baginda) is a powerful person, he (has) money (and) he (has) connection (to the) police (and the) government…Maybe I (was) wrong to have bothered and blackmailed him… But if he didn’t promise me, I would (have) never come from far away to Malaysia.”
The true identity of the persons who ordered the woman’s gruesome death – shot twice in the head, and then her body, believed to be carrying an unborn child, was blown up with military explosives – has never been learned. The destruction of her body is believed to have been an attempt to demolish the fetus’s DNA. although Najib’s aide-de-camp at the time, Musa Safri, was the man contacted by Razak Baginda to “do something about her,” according to Razak’s statement taken directly after her mangled remains were discovered.
Two bodyguards of Najib’s, who according to the statement of one of them were to be paid RM50,000 to RM100,000 once the murder was completed, were convicted and sentenced to hang. Unidentified high government officials are believed to have ordered the two to kill the then-28-year-old mother of two.
One of the two policemen, Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, has been held in detention in Villawood Immigration Detention Center for 21 months after Australian officials learned he had left Malaysia once he was temporarily freed by an appellate court. He was in Australia on an expired tourist visa.
At the time of Altantuya’s death, the two killers, Sirul and Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, were members of an elite police commando unit that protected Malaysia’s top leaders, including Najib, the man who ordered the purchase of the submarines.
The affair began when, shortly before her death, Altantuya flew with two friends to Kuala Lumpur to confront Razak Baginda. The jilted woman made multiple, failed attempts to see Razak Baginda at his home and office, including two days before her murder when she yelled in the street he was a “bastard” and should come out to speak to her.
On the evening of October 19, 2006, according to court testimony, Altantuya returned to Razak Baginda’s home. She was suddenly collected up by two elite policemen – personal bodyguards to then Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak — who left their official duty stations and go off to kill a woman that they had never met, using police-issued weapons that could be traced back to them. Malaysian officials have insisted the killin was a random act. According to Sirul’s sworn statement, she pleaded she was pregnant. Sirul’s statement, which describes in graphic terms the events that led to her death and the destruction of her body with military explosives, was never admitted in court despite the fact that he was clearly informed of his rights prior to making it and acknowledged that he was making it voluntarily.
Razak was subsequently charged with having abetted her murder, a charge he strongly denied. He was acquitted without having to put on a defense in 2008 although in a statement given to the police he said he had asked officials to “do something” about Altantuya.
Sirul and Azilah, who pleaded not guilty, were convicted in 2009 of the murder and sentenced to death. During their 159-day trial, over two and a half years, Sirul said he was “a black sheep who has to be sacrificed” to protect unnamed people. A US Embassy cable made public by Wikileaks speculated that the trial was being deliberately delayed.
Both men were acquitted by the Court of Appeals in 2013. Sirul immediately left for Australia on a tourist visa before the Federal Court, Malaysia’s highest, was to hear an appeal by federal prosecutors against the acquittal. In January 2015, the Federal Court reinstated their convictions and death sentences and Azilah went alone to prison.
When authorities learned Sirul was staying with his son in Queensland, they arrested him on a tourist overstay and detained him in Villawood, where he has remained ever since. Remarkably, after he made sensational remarks by telephone to the popular news site Malaysiakini that he might tell what he knew, two lawyers connected with the United Malays National Organization flew to Australia to defend him – raising the spectacle that lawyers for the country’s top political party were defending and advising a convicted murderer in one of Malaysia’s highest-profile cases.
There the matter has stalled. Azilah is in prison, Sirul is in comfortable detention in Australia. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has demanded a deeper investigation into who paid the two to kill the Mongolian beauty. There has been no response. Mahathir has been threatened with libel and sedition charges in his attempts to pull down Najib.
Despite widespread calls for justice, Altantuya Shaariibuu’s death, her participation on the Scorpene transaction and the events that led to her death ten years ago remain unexplained.