Senior KL Lawyer Questions Altantuya Murder Cover-up

In the wake of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last week raising explosive questions about who was responsible for the 2006 murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, Americk Sidhu, a senior lawyer in Kuala Lumpur, issued a public letter to Asia Sentinel and other media, saying for the “the first time in 34 years I have actually found myself in agreement” with the former premier. He added questions of his own.

Altantuya, a 28-year-old jet-setting beauty with expensive tastes, was murdered on Oct. 18, 2006. Two of the bodyguards of now-Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak were convicted of her murder in a trial that seemed rigged to make sure no questions would be asked about who agreed to pay the killers RM50,000 to RM100,000 to kill her. Musa Safri, then Najib’s aide de camp, has been identified as the person who sent the two to pick her up.

Altantuya played a minor role in the purchase of Scorpene submarines from the French defense contractor DCN that resulted in a €114.9 million bribe being steered to the United Malays National Organization and an additional €36 million that was steered to Abdul Razak Baginda, a prominent security analyst through whose company the kickback was steered and who later jilted her. In a letter found after her death, she admitted that she was attempting to blackmail Razak Baginda for US$500,000. Although her role may have been minor, she and Razak Baginda embarked on a whirlwind tour of Europe at the end of the transaction during which she presumably gained some idea of the dimensions of the scandal.

Sensible Questions

The questions Mahathir was asking ”make sense,” Sidhu wrote, although Najib has put on a full-court press, with allies attacking Mahathir and issuing statements of full support for the premier. The government has also tabled “anti-terrorism” legislation that would allow suspects to be detained for 21 days solely on the word of a police inspector, extendable for an additional 38 days during which the suspect is not permitted access to counsel. Critics of the government fear the act could be used against them.

“These are the same questions a very large portion of the Malaysian population has been asking for over eight years now," he said "Khalid Abu Bakar, the inspector-general of police has been performing backward somersaults trying to avoid the entire issue of the woman’s death."

Khalid “has even had the audacity to threaten [which he is very good at] anyone who dares to bring up the issue of 'motive' in the grisly murder of an innocent female foreign national at the hands of two of Malaysia's best trained commandos.

“The excuse Khalid has given is that the Federal Court has made a decision and any questioning of the reasons behind that decision would be tantamount to contempt of court. What Khalid has failed miserably to appreciate is the fact that no one is 'questioning' that decision. Everyone agrees the decision is correct.”

'Motive' Never Asked

However, Sidhu wrote, “it is the question of motive which has never been addressed in any of the three courts this murder trial has progressed through. In fact, evidence in respect of motive was never tendered by the prosecution. Therefore, as far as I [and Mahathir] are concerned, it is still open season on motive."

Sirul Azhar Umar, one of the two convicted murderers, is now in a Sydney detention facility. After being freed by an appellate court, he fled to Australia rather than wait around for a verdict from the Federal Court, which later reversed the appellate court decision and declared the two guilty. He has since issued a statement to the online independent news site Malaysiakini saying the two killed the woman “on orders.”

Khalid issued a statement saying Malaysian police officers had flown to Australia to interrogate the onetime police corporal, only to have Sirul issue another declaration to Malaysiakini that he had not met with police or been been interrogated.

Sidhu in his open letter demanded that Khalid release the names of those officers who ostensibly questioned Sirul and the exact date and time they visited the detention center. “Inspector Tonny Luggan [the investigating officer in Altantuya's case] says he was not sent to see Sirul in Sydney, so who was?”

Khalid is also reported to have said, "Sirul's remark showed the fugitive was doing his utmost to bring disrepute and cast doubt over the investigations into the murder case, his involvement and the criminal justice system."

“Yes.” Sidhu said. “That is correct, because it is obvious to everyone that your investigations are incomplete.

"As the current series of events appear to translate, Sirul is not disputing his involvement in the murder. All he is saying is that others were involved and they haven't been brought to book so why should he take the rap? One need not have successfully completed an in-depth course in criminal investigation at Pulapol [Malaysia's Police Training Center] to be able to decipher the glaring holes in this entire saga.

Professionally Lacking

"A cursory viewing of a couple of episodes of Miami Vice or CSI New York would suffice in providing a clue as to how the matter ought to have been professionally addressed.

“Azilah Hadri and Sirul have been convicted of the murder of Altantuya by the highest court in our land. This has therefore been proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” he continued. “In the circumstances, there can be no question that these two gentlemen were in fact responsible for lodging two bullets in this poor lady's head and thereafter detonating some military grade explosives placed on her body causing it to be dissipated in the vicinity of some secondary jungle on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.”

Sirul “has candidly admitted he was acting under orders and that he has been made a scapegoat for others who had not been brought to court. In other words, he has tacitly admitted to the crime and confirmed that there may have been others behind it. The question is why would Sirul and Azilah have done this for no apparent reason? The courts have been interested only in whether an offence of murder had been committed and not why it was committed.

“The prosecution failed to seek or put forth an explanation. This is really the question which the IGP can provide an answer to if he is so inclined. He certainly has the resources. As long as he possesses the will, he most certainly will find the way. Khalid, for goodness sake, please, just do your job. At the moment the general public perceive inactivity on your part as yet another ubiquitous and notorious Malaysian cover-up. May I suggest you simply haul up the following characters and ask them these simple questions:

"Azilah Hadri – Why did you and Sirul kill someone you didn't even know?

"DSP Musa Safri [then aide de camp to DPM Najib Razak] – What exactly did you tell Sirul and Azilah to do to that poor Mongolian woman and who exactly asked you to engage their services?

"Nasir Safar [Najib’s special officer] – What were you doing driving around in front of Abdul Razak Baginda's house on the evening of Oct 19, 2006, watching Azilah and Sirul abduct Altantuya?

"Prime Minister Najib – Did you know that four of your staff were involved in this? If so, then why were they?

"Deepak Jaikishan [businessman with close ties to Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor] – Who asked you to shut private eye P Balasubramaniam up and get him and his family out of Malaysia immediately after he released [a statutory declaration alleging Najib had had an affair with Altantuya prior to passing her on to Razak Baginda]? [This should be easy as Deepak has already confessed to all of this].

"Rosmah Mansor, Najib’s wife –Was it you? If not, then who?

"Johari Razak (Najib’s younger brother) – Did you telephone senior lawyer Cecil Abraham on the evening of July 3, 2008 and ask him to prepare [a second statement for Balasumbramaniam to sign denying the veracity of the first]? If so why, and on whose behalf?

"Cecil Abraham – Did you receive a telephone call from Johari Razak on July 3, 2008 to prepare SD2? If so, did you?

"Sunil Abraham [Cecil’s son, who is also a lawyer] – Did you or did you not, assist your father in preparing the second statement and did you then personally deliver it to the Hilton Hotel, KL Sentral on the morning of July 4, 2008 for Balasubramaniam to sign under duress?

"Zainal Abidin Muhayat – Were you a commissioner for oaths in 2008 and did you have your office at Zul Rafique and Partners, Lorong P Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur? If so, who sent you to the Hilton Hotel, KL Sentral on July 4, 2008 to attest Balasubramaniam’s signature on the second statement?

"Nazim Razak [another brother of Najib] – Were you and your wife at the Curve, Mutiara Damansara late in the night of July 3, 2008? If so did you meet Balasubramaniam next to the VW showroom? And if so, did you or did you not, threaten Balasubramaniam to follow the instructions of Deepak Jaikishan and leave the country with his family immediately, otherwise his family's safety could not be guaranteed?

"Najib – Did you instruct Johari and Nazim to arrange, respectively, for the second declaration to be prepared and Balasubramaniam's subsequent departure from Malaysia? If so, why was that necessary?

"Hamzah Zainuddin [Umno MP] – Did you, in 2011, offer Balasubramaniam safe passage back to this country and a cash inducement if he pleaded guilty to affirming a false statutory declaration? If so, why and on behalf of whom?"

The tenor of the questions unleashed by Mahathir's blog posting are as pointed as any aired in public since the murder and show that the incident won't go away. Sidhu, who was counsel for the late P Balasubramaniam and his widow, has a unique vantage point.

"Khalid," he goes on to say, "may I also suggest that you contact a senior investigation officer from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) by the name of Abdul Rahman Bachok. He is a very diligent officer and has the entire file on investigations into the circumstances under which Balasubramaniam affirmed the second declaration. I am sure he will lend you his file and assist you in any way he can. I believe he is a little annoyed that his file has been closed by the Attorney-General's Chambers. He had put a lot of effort into his investigations.

“You may also care to contact the Brickfields police station and ask them why they have not followed up on the police report I lodged on July 8, 2008 in respect of Balasubramaniam's disappearance. I have sent them reminders but there has been no response.

“All the above 'persons of interest' and their answers to the questions posed may possibly assist in revealing a motive for the crime. Is there any reason why you, inspector general of police would be disinclined to pursue the matter further and if so what are those reasons?"