Malaysian Private Eye's Last Case

As if the long-running tale of the grisly 2006 murder of a Mongolian party girl wasn't already complicated enough, evidence has emerged that a recently deceased private detective who once tied Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to the crime, was the focus of an attempt in 2011 to blame opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for the allegations against Najib.

The plot almost backfired, however, when the private detective, Perumal Balasubramaniam, who died March 15 of a heart attack, set out on a vain months-long attempt to entrap the prime minister into acknowledging he was personally behind the plot. There is no evidence that Najib participated in the plan to discredit Anwar and he may have not even known of it. In any case, Najib wasn't born yesterday, and he refused to meet Balasubramaniam despite the fact that a number of United Malays National Organization figures including a deputy cabinet minister attempted to intercede on Balasubramaniam's behalf.

The story began in 2008 when Bala, as he was generally known, published a sworn statement based on his professional relationship with one of Najib's best friends that Najib had had an affair with the Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was murdered in October 2006 by two of Najib's bodyguards. Bala was almost immediately pressured to reverse his statement on threats of harm to his family, hustled out of Malaysia and promised RM5 million (US$1.6 million) to keep his mouth shut.

Bala described the 2011 bribe attempt to the Kuala Lumpur-based website Malaysiakini in August 2012, saying it was carried out by Deepak Jaikishan, then a close friend of Rosmah Mansor, the prime minister's wife. However, Bala's allegations went largely below the radar. Depak has since become a bitter and public critic of Najib and Rosmah.

Well before the meeting with Malaysiakini, however, Bala approached Asia Sentinel through his lawyer, Americk Sidhu, and provided detailed evidence of the bribe attempt, along with a request that publication be held off until he gave his approval while he attempted for weeks to arrange a meeting with the prime minister. Approval was never forthcoming. He went to Asia Sentinel, he said, because he wanted to give the evidence to a regional publication that could not be accused of bias against the government, rather than local websites, which were regarded as allies of the opposition.

The bribery attempt was made in April 2011, when the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition was in what was thought to be a close race in state elections in Sarawak. However, the election a won handily by the state's ruling Sarawak United People's Party.

Deepak, according to Bala, called him in Chennai, where he was in exile from Malaysia. Deepak said he wanted the private detective to confess to making up the allegations of Najib's affair and other embarrassing details that got him railroaded out of the country.

After delivering that first sworn statement in 2008, Bala was collected up by allies of Najib, who was then the deputy prime minister and defense minister. Under duress, he then swore out a second statement saying his first was untrue. It later transpired that this second statement was written for him by Cecil Abraham, one of Kuala Lumpur's most prominent lawyers, allegedly on personal orders from Najib.

Deepak wanted Bala to videotape a script, confessing that he sought to discredit Najib after joining a plot put together by Anwar and Sidhu, Bala's lawyer, among others. He was to say he had been paid RM200,000 up front and RM50,000 a month for his trouble. The videotape was to be played on national television the night before the Sarawak election, presumably to disgrace Anwar. Several attempts to contact Deepak have been unsuccessful.

However, Bala, who by this time had collected RM750,000 of the RM5 million promised to him - and kept the checks, later making them public - had had enough. He used software on his mobile phone to record all of the conversations with Deepak. In those conversations, Deepak allegedly offered Bala the chance to return to Kuala Lumpur with his family, RM100,000 in cash and an apartment worth RM700,000 in the newly developed Berjaya Times Square complex in Kuala Lumpur.

The money was subsequently deposited in Bala's wife's account at EON Bank in Kuala Lumpur. He prevailed on Deepak to make a copy of the deposit slip and email it to him in Chennai. The private detective also got a copy of the Sale & Purchase Agreement on the flat, with Balasubramaniam's wife as the purchaser. The smart card giving access to the flat was also copied and sent to Chennai as proof of the transfer of the property.

With the proof of the bribe and the purchase agreement in hand, Bala made the video, reading the script that Deepak had furnished. Then, at the last minute, he backed out. Deepak's outraged reaction over the telephone was recorded by Bala.

Bala then authorized his lawyer to send an email offering to refund the bribe. Deepak somewhat sensibly refused to answer the email.

All of the information - the emails, the deposit slip, the purchase agreement for the flat - were sent to Asia Sentinel.

Balasubramaniam would subsequently return quietly to Kuala Lumpur, with one purpose in mind. He wanted to entrap Najib himself into a meeting. Months went by, in which he made overtures through various intermediaries. But the Prime Minister never took the bait despite months of manoeuvring.

There the matter rested. Balasubrmaniam talked to various opposition news outlets, and ultimately began campaigning for Anwar and the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition ahead of elections expected in May. After suffering a minor heart seizure, he was under medical treatment when he had another heart attack and died.

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