THE MURDER THAT SHOOK MALAYSIA
Last week, the ex-Prime Minister of Malaysia- Najib Razak, was convicted for his involvement in the 1MDB corruption case. Although, there is something much more horrifying that he has been left out of- the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu.
On 19th October, 2006, Altantuya Shaariibuu was shoved into a car by two officers of the Royal Malaysian Police- Azilah and Sirul, before being taken into a jungle on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Somewhere between 10 pm and 1 am, she was shot in the head with a high-powered semi-automatic weapon. Then, military grade explosives were strapped to her body and detonated. But, the biggest question here isn't 'how?', it's 'why?'
When Altantuya went to Malaysia, she primarily went to meet her lover- Baginda, who was a close advisor to Najib Razak. Altantuya used to accompany him on his trips as a translator. The two of them went to Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and even France. But, Altantuya was owed $500,000 for a French defence deal that she assisted the Malaysian government with. Soon, she started to blackmail Baginda.
Fed up with the harassment, Baginda approached an officer of the Royal Malaysian Police- Azilah, and told him to handle the issue without doing anything unusual. Soon, Altantuya felt that she was being followed. The same day that she was murdered, she went to file a report at the police station. Her statement read, "I'm just a normal girl trying to meet my lover who lied to me, who promised me many things but now want to put me in jail or kill...maybe it's my fault to blackmail him, but I have my own problems because of his lies...if something happened to me, please check with this person."
That very night, she went to Baginda's house, but was never to be seen alive again.
In the next few weeks, Baginda was detained and taken to court. He admitted that Altantuya was his mistress, but said that he gave no orders for her to be killed. During Baginda's trial, the key witness- Bala, almost threw his defence out of the window......well, almost.
Bala was a private investigator hired by Baginda to protect him against Altantuya, but later went on to oppose him in court once he found out that Altantuya had been killed. He revealed something in court that made everyone’s jaws drop.
Bala said that Altantuya had an affair not just with Baginda, but also with the infamous leader, Najib Razak.
Bala added that Altantuya was promised $500,000 as commission on a French defence deal she assisted the Malaysian government with. However, Najib Razak refused to have met her at all, even though his signature is on the deal and Altantuya was, in fact, present during the deal.
The very next day, Bala withdrew his statement, saying that it was "inaccurate and not the truth" and that he made the earlier statement "under duress". Then, he left the country.
As a result, Baginda was set free.
After more than two years, Bala reached out to the Malaysian authorities and said that Najib Razak had threatened him and his family by stationing army intelligence officers outside his house. Najib Razak offered him $1.3 million to retract his statement and leave. Bala further clarified that everything he said in his first statement was true.
On 13th January, 2015, the Federal Court found Azilah and Sirul guilty of Altantuya's murder and sentenced them to death by hanging. One of the two officers found guilty of Altantuya's murder, Sirul, insists that he was scapegoated and was merely obeying orders.
On 17th October, 2019, Azilah said that Sirul and himself killed Altantuya on orders received from Najib Razak. Azilah said that he ordered him to "arrest and destroy" Altantuya because she was a "foreign spy" and a "threat to national security." He added that Najib Razak instructed him to destroy the body with explosives in order to remove all traces of it, and he wanted Azilah to be "cautious" of her as she would probably claim to be pregnant.
Azilah went on to say, “I asked what he (Najib) meant by arrest and destroy the foreign spy, he responded: “Shoot to kill”, and indicating it with a ‘slit the throat' gesture.”
Coming to the theories, the most popular one is that Najib Razak was unwilling to pay Altantuya her share of $500,000 in the French defence deal, which involved the purchase of two French submarines, and was highly controversial due to the corruption in the deal. It is believed that she began to be perceived as a threat by Najib Razak and his advisor, Baginda. However, it’s strange how Bala was given $1.3 million to leave Malaysia, but Altantuya wasn’t even given $500,000 because if there’s anything Najib Razak knows how to do, it’s throwing money at the problem. The blackmail combined with the money she was demanding, many believe, could have been the death of her.
However, a stronger theory is that Altantuya was pregnant with Najib Razak's child. The manner in which her body was strapped with explosives and blown to pieces implies that there could have been some evidence that was being destroyed, there was something more to the crime scene. It must be noted that in the 1MDB scandal, the witness who demanded $2.5 million was arrested and put in a Thai jail, he was never killed, let alone blown to pieces. Altantuya could have easily been shot in the head and left, but ordering one to be killed in such a brutal manner is something Najib would resort to only if he was up against a wall. He had a lot at stake. Besides, elections were approaching then and he wouldn’t have wanted to take any chances.
Najib Razak has constantly denied involvement in the Altantuya case, even declaring in a mosque that he’ll be damned by Allah if he had anything to do with her murder...maybe he will be.
On the other hand, Sirul said that he is willing to cooperate with the Malaysian authorities and tell them everything he knows in exchange for a full pardon. The Malaysian authorities will now have to decide what the word of Sirul is worth.
There is nothing more clear here than the fact that Najib Razak had ordered Altantuya's killing. All throughout his political career, he has gotten away with several crimes, but murder is unforgivable and it is unforgettable. He always won at this game of power and corruption that people call politics, little did he know, the rules would change.
Reporter- Haneen Farid