By: Our Correspondent

Asia Sentinel’s editor-in-chief John Berthelsen won first prize for Excellence in Investigative Reporting at the annual Society of Publishers in Asia journalism awards in Hong Kong on Thursday.

The award was for a series of pieces on the brutal murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a young Mongolian woman slain in Kuala Lumpur in 2006 by two bodyguards assigned to now-Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s office.

The winning stories in this series are:

Berthelsen’s stories linked the crime to Malaysian defense procurement irregularities, a bribery investigation in France and a court case that saw the two bodyguards convicted of murder but no higher-ups implicated in ordering the death of the 28 year old woman, who was pregnant at the time and had been romantically linked to a close friend of Najib’s.

“We are grateful to have won this award and it shows that this very important story is not being completely ignored,” Berthelsen said. “The victim in this case deserves a measure of justice.”

Second place in the category was won by the South China Morning Post for a series of stories on Chongqing. Asia Sentinel was competing against daily newspapers and other publications in cities across the region. The annual SOPA Awards for Editorial Excellence, now in their 15th year, are considered the most prestigious journalism prizes in Asia.