More Spectacular Malaysian Scandal Revelations

The world of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor appears in increasing danger of coming apart because of sensational revelations by Rosmah’s former personal friend hinting at complicity in the six-year-old murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibu. Najib’s brother Nazim has now been enmeshed in the scandal.

The 28-year-old Altantuya was shot in the head twice and her body was blown up with C4 plastic explosives, possibly to hide an unborn child, in October 2006 by two bodyguards from Najib’s personal unit. One of the two confessed that they were to be paid RM100,000 to get rid of the woman, who had been jilted by Najib’s best friend, former security analyst Abdul Razak Baginda.

The two have been on death row for three years. The confession, despite the fact that it was a cautioned statement, was never introduced in court and the individual who offered to pay to have Altantuya killed has never been named.

The big question being asked all over Kuala Lumpur is who, if anybody, put the businessman Deepak Jaikishan, who once said he was as close to Rosmah as if she were his sister, up to the revelations, which began just before the three-day United Malays National Organization’s Annual General Assembly which started Nov. 28.

“Deepak has claimed that he’s with the No. 2 (Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin), but there’s no evidence to prove that,” a longtime political source told Asia Sentinel. “If you remember, there were moves earlier this year to suggest that Najib should step down before elections and allow the Nov. 2 to lead the Barisan Nasional (the national ruling coalition) into the polls. Posters to this effect were put up in Johor and Penang but they fizzled out just as fast.”

During the UMNO conclave two weeks ago, Deepak met with Zahid Hamidi, the defense minister to appear on a video that supposedly implicated Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in his decision to go public. That has largely been discarded by the political cognoscenti in Kuala Lumpur as a red herring.

At the same time as Deepak has been making his statements, the retired inspector general of police, Musa Hassan, has issued a series of charges that politicians have intervened in police affairs and called for an independent panel to probe his allegations. For Musa to protest that he is shocked, shocked to learn of such political intervention is almost laughable, since he himself played a role in railroading Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim into prison for six years on trumped-up charges of sodomy. Musa told opposition publications that when the police were about to arrest politically connected suspects, they would often receive calls from powerful figures.

As with Deepak, the timing of Musa’s allegations raises many questions -- including allegations he didn’t make. On Oct. 20, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand announced that Musa would hold a Monday press conference in Bangkok with “new revelations” over Altantuya’s murder. Then, just as mysteriously as it had been made, the announcement was withdrawn and Musa told local reporters he had never heard of the matter.

National elections must be held before mid-April 2013. Driving Najib from power at this point, especially if his faction were to turn its back on the party, would probably wreck its organizational capability to put on the elections.

Although it appears unlikely that would happen, the allegations are believed to be taking their toll among party stalwarts. Especially if Muhyiddin is behind them, it would spell big trouble. Political observers say it does pave the way to drive him out if the Barisan doesn’t make gains in the April polls. The scandal so far hasn’t resonated outside the urban areas into the Malay heartland enough to damage the party’s chances.

At the heart of the Deepak revelations is a statement by Perumal Balasubramaniam, who was hired by Razak Baginda to keep the Mongolian translator and party girl away from him after she jilted him. In a sworn declaration he said that Razak Baginda had told him Altantuya had been Najib’s girlfriend first, but that he had passed her to Razak Baginda because he expected to become prime minister and didn’t want a scandal over a girlfriend. Najib has repeatedly denied meeting the woman and sworn on the Quran that he knew nothing of her. He called Bala’s statements “frivolous.”

That statutory declaration earned Balasubramaniam a fast ticket out of the country after a quick trip to a local police station, where he later said he was forced to sign a statement recanting his original one, on pain of harm to his family. In November 2009, Balasubramaniam displayed photocopies of several RM50,000 checks drawn on Public Bank of Malaysia made out by Deepak as an inducement to leave the country.

For the past four years, Bala has continued to accuse forces aligned with Rosmah of engineering his forced departure from Malaysia. Now, however, Deepak has largely corroborated Bala’s original statement and added new revelations. In a series of interviews with independent or opposition news sites and bloggers, Deepak has been metering out additional details that implicate others. He has now threatened to go public with a 26-page booklet detailing his relationship with Rosmah and to give the full details of the episode involving Bala.

“Deepak has gone ballistic,” said a longtime political observer in Kuala Lumpur. “Najib’s guys are very jittery. The mainstream powers have blacked out almost all news on Deepak’s allegations but in cyberspace it has gone viral. Najib’s guys’ way of combating this is to order a complete blackout in the mainstream press and for those involved not to comment and hope the issue goes away.”

In a new interview with the news site Malaysiakini Deepak has now named Najib’s younger brother, architect Mohd Nazim Abdul Razak, as the individual who put up the money in return for Bala’s repudiation of his declaration.

"I affirm what was earlier said that Datuk Nazim joined the meeting to facilitate whatever needed to be done. My involvement was just to get everyone together," he told Malaysiakini in an interview, saying he had done so as a favor to Rosmah after receiving a call from the then-defense minister’s wife. In earlier declarations, Bala displayed checks showing he had received RM750,000.

According to Deepak, the money paid to Balasubramaniam came from "Datuk Nazim and his resources".

"Yes," he told Malaysiakini when asked again to confirm that the "Datuk Nazim" he mentioned was indeed Najib's brother.

“I don’t know whether Deepak knows what he is doing but he is certainly not doing it to appease his conscience. Having said that, he knows a lot of secrets and he is courting danger,” said one source.