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Central Figure in Malaysian Submarine Murder Case Dies
Perumal Balasubramaniam, a former private detective who rocked Malaysia with allegations that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had had a sexual relationship with Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian beauty who was murdered in 2006 by two of Najib's bodyguards, died today of a heart attack.
Americk Siddhu, Balasubramaniam's lawyer, said the 53-year-old detective met with doctors this morning to determine whether he needed a coronary bypass operation, then returned to his home, where he suffered chest pains. He died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital, Siddhu said.
With national elections apparently just around the corner before June, Balasubramaniam has played a major role for the opposition, detailing his involvement in the case. Bala, as he was known, was a former policeman who 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 Razak Baginda because he had jilted her.
In a sworn statement issued in 2008, Bala alleged that the Mongolian beauty had first had an affair with Najib, who passed her on to Razak Baginda because Najib, then defense minister, didn't want to have a mistress around when he became prime minister. Najib succeeded Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in office in 2009.
Before she was killed, according to Bala's statement, she told him she, Razak Baginda and Najib had been together at a dinner in Paris during a transaction to buy French submarines for which Najib and Razak Baginda allegedly later were paid US$150 million in bribes. The statement contained excruciating and sensational details of the dead woman's sexual practices.
Najib has repeatedly denied he had ever met the woman, swearing to Allah that no such meeting had taken place.
Razak Baginda, in a sworn statement to police when he was a suspect in the murder, said he had a whirlwind romance in Europe and Macau before the defense analyst jilted her. According to a letter left after her death, the 28-year-old woman was demanding revenge and US$500,000 for her role as a translator in the sale the submarines. A French prosecutorial team continues to probe the sale of the subs to Malaysia.
In July of 2008, as the trial of the two bodyguards droned on, Balasubramaniam issued a statutory declaration detailing Najib's involvement , saying he was doing so because he had offered to tell what he knew to police, but that his offer was ignored. He retracted the entire contents of the declaration a day later and issued a second saying he had made the first under duress from Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, and hurriedly left the country.
Months later, he resurfaced to say he had been hauled into a Kuala Lumpur police station, where he was forced to recant his statement under threat to his family. 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 Deepak.
Deepak himself has surfaced in recent months to make repeated statements that corroborated everything Bala had said, saying that after he had helped to get Bala out of the country, Rosmah and Najib had turned on him, that police had confiscated all of his records, and that he had been cheated in a business deal over land. Deepak has continued to tell opposition websites of his business relationship to Rosmah, saying it involved billions of ringgit.
Bala returned to Malaysia from Chennai earlier this year to continue to make charges against Najib and Raak Baginda over the situation. He suffered a minor heart attack last month while speaking at a rally for the opposition Pakatan Rakyat. Following a medical checkup, he was hospitalized for 10 days.
He said he would continue to campaign for the opposition despite his heart condition, calling it a small thing.
He joked that he was okay with "the man upstairs" and that the spirit of Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu still does not want him to die.
He said he was still needed to expose the truth about his involvement with and knowledge of those whom he believed were responsible for her murder.
In the interview, Bala urged Malaysians to vote for a change of government as this is the only way that justice could be found for Altantuya and the two policemen who he believed were wrongly blamed for her death.
He added that his dramatic return to Malaysia was a blessing as he otherwise would not have discovered his heart condition.
"This is good. If I didn't come back for the campaign, I might not have known (about my heart condition).
"I might have stayed in India. I might have died silently."