FORMER Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (left) was visibly rattled when the media confronted him on Wednesday, yet again, over murdered Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.
“That is slander. Lies. I never met her,” he was reported saying by Malaysiakini online news-portal after denying the latest court testimony by Altantuya’s cousin.
He was asked to respond to Altantuya’s first cousin Burmaa Oyunchimeg, who testified at the High Court in Shah Alam that Altantuya showed her a photo of herself, her lover Abdul Razak Baginda, and a Deputy Prime Minister named “Razak” while testifying as first witness in the family’s RM100 million civil lawsuit against the Malaysian government.
Burmaa told the court she is employed as a sales associate at US department store Macy’s in Chicago, Illinois where she currently lives.
Clearly annoyed by the continued persistent questioning, Najib, who is campaigning for the Barisan National (BN) candidate in the Cameron Highlands by-election, reiterated that he had previously sworn in a mosque about the matter.
BRUTAL MURDER IN 2006
For the record, Altantuya was brutally murdered in the jungles of Puncak Alam, Shah Alam, with a shot to the head before her body was blown up with high-grade military explosives in 2006. She was 28 and pregnant at the time of her death.
By all recounts, like a blood-stained script from a Bollywood movie, Altantuya was a stunning woman – tall, willowy with exquisite features. But her mesmerising beauty came to be a curse. She grew up in Saint Petersburg, Russia and spoke fluent Russian, English, Chinese and Korean. She was both a model and a translator.
In 2004 while in Hong Kong, Altantuya met Baginda and the two began an affair. Baginda was no ordinary political analyst. He was a friend and associate of Najib Razak, who was then Malaysia’s Defence Minister. The analyst acted as Najib’s advisor from 2000 to 2008. Najib later rose to become Prime Minister in 2009.
The Malaysian newspapers reported many believe that her involvement in a defence deal to purchase two French Scorpene submarines may have led to her death. Both Baginda and Najib were alleged to have taken multi-million dollar backhanders for the deal, which they both deny.
Sometime in 2006, the affair between Altantuya and Baginda soured and he abruptly ended it. Later that year, Altantuya came to Malaysia together with her sister and cousin to track down Baginda, who had refused to see her.
‘NOTHING TO DO WITH CASE’
Despite repeated photo evidence of his alleged links, Najib continues to deny knowing Altantuya or that he had any part in her death.
Najib told The Star newspaper last year: “I’m on record to have sworn in a mosque in the name of Allah that I had nothing to do with the case. I still maintain that I only knew she died four, five days after the death…that was the first time I heard about her. There is no evidence to show I ever knew her.”
The new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government last year ordered investigations into her death to be reopened following appeals from Altantuya’s family. This highly thriller-like case that had cast a shadow over the government of former Prime Minister Najib Razak for more than a decade.
Even Mongolia President Battulga Khaltmaa was quoted as saying that re-opening the investigation would not only help justice but also ease tensions between the two countries.
Altantuya’s parents Shaariibuu Setev and Altantsetseg Sanjaa, and Altantuya’s two sons had on June 4, 2007 filed the civil lawsuit to claim compensation for the mental shock and psychological trauma they suffered over her death. However, one of Altantuya’s two sons, 15-year-old Alatanshagai Munkhtukga, was removed as plaintiff when he died in 2017.
In the lawsuit where Altantuya’s family is seeking RM100 million as compensation, Sirul Azhar Umar, Azilah Hadri, Baginda and the government of Malaysia were named as defendants.
WHO ORDERED THE MURDER?
Lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo said Altantuya’s family wants justice for her. They “want to know who ordered her murder and we hope to get some answers from this trial,” she told The Associated Press.
Sirul and Azilah, two elite bodyguards from the Security Protection Force, were convicted by the High Court in 2009 of killing Altantuya. They succeeded in overturning their conviction at the Court of Appeal in 2013, but the Federal Court in 2015 restored their conviction and sentenced them to death.
Rather cryptically, neither a motive for the crime, nor who ordered the killing, was ever investigated. Baginda was acquitted of abetting the two former police officers in her murder.
Sirul, rather strangely, had escaped to Australia after the Court of Appeal ruling and is currently under detention there as Australian laws do not allow extraditions to a country with the death penalty. Sirul, a former commando, has told the media that many in Malaysia saw him as a “political detainee” and that he was prepared to return home provided he was given a full pardon.
Azilah, a former police Special Action Force officer, who is currently on death row, has been waiting for more than two years for a hearing on his plea for clemency.