The potential reopening of an investigation into the murder 12 years ago of a Mongolian model could spell more trouble for former Malaysian premier Najib Razak, as the new government pressed ahead with investigations into alleged corruption.
On Saturday, Mongolia’s president requested Malaysia’s new leaders find justice for the dead woman, Altantuya Shaariibu, while a fugitive policeman convicted of the crime said he would cooperate with any new probe if he was given a full pardon.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has barred Najib from leaving Malaysia after surprisingly defeating his one-time protege in an election May 9.
The new government is seeking answers to how billions of dollars disappeared from a state fund that Najib founded, and its anti-graft agency has asked the ex-premier, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, to make a statement at its headquarters Tuesday.
In the case of the murdered Mongolian model, two policemen from Najib’s security detail were convicted, and have death sentences hanging over them, but the question of who ordered them to kill 28-year-old Altantuya has never been answered.
While released on bail during an appeal one of those officers fled to Australia.
Speaking from an immigration detention center, where he has been held since 2015 for overstaying his visa, Sirul Azhar Umar told news portal Malaysiakini that he would help any move by the government to resurrect the case so long as he is given a full pardon.
Najib, who was deputy prime minister and defense minister at the time of the murder, has denied knowing Altantuya or playing any role in her death, but the mystery has haunted his political career. Calls by Reuters to Najib’s spokesman for comment on the latest developments went unanswered.
His relative and one-time close associate, Abdul Razak Baginda, a defense consultant and political analyst who was reportedly the dead woman’s lover, had been charged with abetting the murder but was acquitted in 2008.
Anwar urges new charges
Anwar Ibrahim, the rival who allied with Mahathir to topple Najib, said judges’ reluctance to call key witnesses in the murder case had “made a mockery of the law.”
“The best way is to proffer a new charge and allow for a full hearing of the case,” Anwar told The Australian newspaper following his own release from prison earlier this week after a royal pardon quashed a politically motivated sodomy conviction.
In his interview with Malaysiakini, Sirul thanked Anwar “for calling for a fresh trial.”
Civil society groups have alleged Altantuya’s murder was linked to her role as an interpreter and associate of Najib’s adviser, Abdul Razak Baginda, during Malaysia’s negotiations to buy two submarines from French shipbuilding giant DCNS in 2002. Najib has denied allegations of links to Altantuya or graft during the deal.