Closing the Books on Murder in Malaysia

The episode of a sensational killing of a Mongolian translator appears to be about finished

The closing of a case earlier this week by Malaysia's attorney general
over allegedly false statements by a private investigator that tied
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to the 2006 murder of Mongolian
translator Altantuya Shaariibuu literally lets unknown persons close to
the prime minister get away with murder.

The closure of the case
appears to write the final chapter in one of Malaysia's most
sensational murder cases, one involving a gruesome death, intrigue in
high places, more than 100 million euros in alleged bribes and a trial
that appeared to be rigged to keep prosecutors as far as possible away
from Najib, then the deputy prime minister, and his wife, Rosmah Mansor.

The private investigator, P Balasubramaniam, was hired in 2006
by Abdul Razak Baginda, one of Najib's best friends and a defense
analyst from the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre think-tank, to
attempt to keep Altantuya away from Baginda because he had jilted her.
She was demanding revenge and US$500,000 for her role as a translator in
the sale of French submarines to Malaysia. A French prosecutorial team
continues to probe the sale of the subs to Malaysia and whether
kickbacks were paid to top French and Malaysian politicians.

July of 2008, as the trial droned on, Balasubramaniam issued a statutory
declaration alleging that Najib, then the deputy prime minister, was
involved in the murder, only to retract the entire contents of the
declaration a day later and issue a second saying he had made the first
under duress (Note: Both declarations can be found here).

lawyer, Americk Sidhu, denounced the closing of the case, saying that
if the supposedly false statements were investigated thoroughly by
police, they would have led to the conclusion that people close to Najib
were involved in the murder.

De facto Law Minister Nazri Aziz,
in a written statement to parliament, said the case was closed because
Balasubramaniam had given conflicting statutory declarations, and that
anyway, they didn't affect the trial of two of Najib's personal
bodyguards and Abdul Razak Baginda, which ended in April of 2009 after a
159-day trial in which the bodyguards were sentenced to death. They are
appealing the verdict, with suspicions running high that they will
somehow be given their freedom in exchange for their silence on whoever
ordered them to kill the woman.

"Although there are
contradictions between the two statutory declarations, the
contradictions do not affect the outcome of the trial of Altantuya,"
Nazri said. "Moreover, the individual (Balasubramaniam) is still
believed to be abroad." Nazri added that the decision to close the case
was made after "careful consideration" of the results of the police
probe and witness statements.

Although the two bodyguards were
convicted of the crime, Baginda was acquitted under controversial
circumstances without having to put on a defense. He then hurriedly left
the country for England, where he has remained ever since. One of the
two bodyguards said in a cautioned statement that they had been hired to
commit the killing and were to be paid RM100,000 to do it. But the
statement was never introduced into the marathon trial and never was
anybody asked who had done the hiring or made the payment offer.

27-year-old Altantuya, the translator in some phases of the
billion-dollar purchase of French Scorpene submarines that netted
Baginda's company €114 million in consulting fees, was shot in the head
and her body was blown up with explosives in a patch of jungle near the
suburban city of Shah Alam. Before she died, she told Balasubramaniam
she had been promised US$500,000 for assisting in the submarine

In the bodyguard's cautioned statement, it emerged
that Altantuya, almost with her last words, told her two assailants that
she was pregnant and begged them not to kill her. That has led to
speculation that her body was blown up with C4 explosives to hide any
DNA evidence of who the father might be.

Balasubramaniam, who
remains somewhere in Chennai, has continued to insist loudly that Razak
Baginda, who is married, had told him that the translator had been
Najib's sexual companion before the then-deputy prime minister passed
her on to Baginda because it wouldn't look good for a prospective prime
minister to have a girlfriend.

After making the first
declaration, Balasubramaniam was hauled into a Kuala Lumpur police
station, where he was forced to recant it in a second under threat to
his family, he later testified. After that, according to statements he
made under oath, he was taken to meet with Mohamad Nizam Razak, Najib's
brother, and Deepak Jaikishan, described as a "business associate" of
Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor, where he was promised RM5 million to leave
the country and shut up. He later displayed cancelled checks showing he
had been paid RM750,000 out of an account maintained by Jaikishan.
According to his sworn statement, Balasubramaniam said Rosmah was "very
pleased" that he had agreed to retract the statutory declaration and
wanted to have breakfast with him.

Nazri told the parliament that
Balasubramaniam was initially investigated for providing false
statements, which would make him liable to three years in jail and a
fine. That makes it a mystery why the case was dropped against him,
since one of the statutory declarations was demonstrably false – either
the one implicating Najib and describing the murder, or the one
recanting it.

A team from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption
Commission first made an appointment to interview Balasubramaniam in the
UK, where he was staying out of fear for his safety, but cancelled the
appointment without an explanation.

"The evidence is staring you
in the face," Sidhu said in a telephone interview from Australia. "A
whole pile of witnesses can confirm the first statement and who have
been investigated by the police have said the original statement was
made of his own free will. If they had investigated, they would have had
to interview Rosmah, Nizam and Jaikashan over the checks to Bala.They
can't afford to charge him. If they do that, they would hang themselves.
They had no alternative but to close the file to save Najib and his

To say Balasubramaniam's first statement was
explosive is an understatement. In addition to saying Najib had been
Altantuya's lover before he turned her over to Razak Baginda,
Balasubramaniam wrote that Najib had a sexual relationship with the
Mongolian woman and that she liked anal sex. Before she was killed,
according to the statement, she told Balasubramaniam that she, Baginda
and Najib had been together at a dinner in Paris during the transaction
over the submarines.

Najib has repeatedly denied he had ever met
the woman, swearing to Allah that no meeting had taken place. During
the trial of the two elite bodyguards, a friend of Altantuya who had
accompanied the woman to Malaysia said there was no record in
immigration that she had ever been in the country.

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