Malaysia’s Mongolian Model Murder Mystery Linked to French Subs May Be Solved
AP Photo / Asia & Pacific16:15 18.05.2018(updated 16:19 18.05.2018) Get short URL
A police officer who fled Malaysia after being sentenced to hang for the killing of a beautiful Mongolian model, in a scandal linked to the government, should face a new trial, political leader Anwar Ibrahim has said. The murder in 2006 is thought to be linked to kickbacks for the purchase of French submarines by the Malaysian navy.
Shaariibuugiin Altantuya, a model-turned-translator who was born in the Soviet Union, was allegedly the mistress of Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Najib Razak, who lost his position as Malaysian Prime Minister after the election on May 10.
The 28-year-old’s murder is thought to be linked to another corruption scandal, involving kickbacks for the purchase of French submarines in 2002.
Razak — who was Minister of Defense at the time — has repeatedly denied any involvement in under-the-table payments of 114 million euros (US$142 million) to French submarine manufacturer DCNS for two Scorpene submarines.
On Friday, May 18, police officers raided Razak’s home and seized 72 suitcases stuffed with cash, jewellery and designer handbags.
US investigators say Razak’s associates stole and laundered US$4.5 billion from the 1MDB fund but Razak has denied any wrongdoing.
Unanswered Questions From 2006 Murder
But his fall from power has led to calls for a reopening of Malaysia’s biggest political scandal — the murder of Ms. Altantuya.
Her body was blown up with C-4 explosives on October 18, 2006 in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur by two police officers from an elite unit which guarded government ministers.
One of them, Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, has claimed he was ordered by “important people” to murder Ms. Altantuya, who had worked as a translator in the latter stages of the secret deal’s negotiations and was apparently angry when she did not receive a promised US$500,000 pay-off.
Malaysian private detective Perumal Balasubramaniam — who died mysteriously in 2013 — claimed Ms. Altantuya had also been Razak’s lover but the former prime minister swore on the Quran he had never met her.
The murder trial heard Ms. Altantuya was pregnant at the time of her death and had been dragged from a car, knocked unconscious and shot twice in the head as she begged for her life and that of her unborn child.
The killers were reportedly told to use military-grade explosives on her body to avoid any chance of DNA tests on the fetus inside her.
Death Penalty Hanging Over Police Officers
In 2009 Sirul was sentenced to hang, along with Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, for the murder but Baginda was acquitted.
Four years later the two police officers were cleared on appeal and although their sentences were reimposed in 2015 Sirul had by then fled to Australia, where he remains in custody.
Australia is refusing to extradite him as its law does not allow people to be sent back to countries where they may face the death penalty.
Opponents of Razak have long claimed the police officers were scapegoats who were hung out to dry to protect high-ranking government officials.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was released from prison on Wednesday, May 16, after his sodomy conviction was quashed on the orders of new prime minister Mahathir Mohamed, said he wanted to see a new trial to hear all the facts.
“The best way is to proffer a new charge and allow for a full hearing of the case,” Anwar told The Australian newspaper.
He said judges in the original trial were “compromised” and their reluctance to call crucial witnesses had “made a mockery of the law”.
Newspaper reports in Australia have suggested Razak’s UMNO political party sent go-betweens to see Sirul at the Villawood detention center in Sydney and warned him not to say anything about what he knew about the murder.
Bernard Baiocco, former president of the Asian division of Thales (which owned DCNS), has been accused by French magistrates of paying bribes in relation to the deal.