Once more, the highly innocent Najib Razak (read his Facebook) has been shocked and outraged by accusations over his alleged involvement in improprieties, this time the ghastly murder of his ‘translator’ at the hands of his bodyguards.
And again, the former prime minister is dismayed that the legal authorities in the country should move to examine evidence of his role, with a view to potential prosecution. His existing convictions over the mega-fraud 1MDB are being appealed after all.
Most Malaysians know the tragic story of Altantuya’s disappearance and death only too well, erupting as it did on the cusp of Najib’s ousting of the previous prime minister to take his place.
Najib’s right-hand man Razak Baginda, who was for a time a defendant in the case, had admitted to being Altantuya’s lover while she was acting as ‘translator’ during Najib’s massive (and highly crooked) purchase of Scorpene submarines from France as minister of defence.
Malaysians also know that the eventual trial was a farce, during which the charges against Baginda were inexplicably dropped and neither he nor Najib was even called to give evidence or be cross-examined.
Throughout the episode, Najib was treated as a VVIP, who needed protecting from the fray, and Baginda classed himself a victim too.
In the end, two of Najib’s official bodyguards were convicted of kidnapping and shooting the Mongolian lady, after which they blew her into smithereens with sophisticated weapons grade explosives, without a single motive being established for them doing such a thing.
Neither of the men knew her after all. But they knew where to find her, which was right outside Baginda’s house where she had been demanding an alleged payment of $500,000 owed to her for the translation and other services relating to Scorpene.
The date was 18th October 2006, and ever since numerous parties (including Altantuya’s family) have attempted to hold Najib, Baginda and their senior ADC Musa Safri to account for their own involvement in the matter, without success.
All Najib and those around him have ever done is pull out all the stops to suppress the evidence and duck being questioned.
Until today that is, when a so-called Letter of Demand was directed to the former Attorney-General Tommy Thomas from Najib’s notorious personal lawyer, Shaffee Abdullah, threatening to issue a writ on Friday if Thomas does not retract his statements about the issue in his book and pay Najib RM10 million.
You said you think Najib is guilty of the murder!
Whether or not his complaint is correct, Shafee states his client Najib believes that Thomas has effectively told the Malaysian public in this book that he thinks claims that it was Najib who ordered Altantuya’s death are true.
The letter states that Thomas’s remarks indicate: “that you believe…the statements of the two convicted persons were truthful when they implicated our client as directing the murder of Altantuya Shaaribu;
By clear inference and innuendo, you have also conveyed the message that you as the erstwhile Attorney General and Public Prosecutor was satisfied of the truthfulness of the allegations of the two convicted persons against our client….
you have conveyed the message to all readers of your book that irrespective of the decisions of the courts, with respect to the murder trial of the two convicts, our client was nevertheless guilty of directing the murder of Altantuya Shaaribu.”
If the above claim is true as to the former AG’s beliefs and meaning (yet to be determined) it is clearly highly serious and would prompt many Malaysians to think the whole matter needs a proper airing in the courts.
Which, of course, is what will, at last, be achieved if Najib presses his case with an actual writ threatened against the AG Friday.
Lawyers who have been trying to get the ex-PM into court for years to answer a growing body of questions about the case may well be preparing a celebratory toast or two if that occurs.
He may have appeared twice in a mosque to be photographed denying involvement on a Koran (see above) but he has never answered questions under oath.
It is, after all, long established that if someone wishes to bring a civil complaint, they must present himself in court and be cross-examined.
Tough questions to answer
It goes without saying that questions put by the defendant are going to include why Najib and his family have been implicated in so many instances of interference and cover-up relating to the Altantuya trial and why now key witnesses are pointing a finger at his involvement?
Evidence shows that from the start Najib was seeking to interfere in the original investigation to get Baginda out of remand and then away from the witness stand.
He and his family were then heavily implicated in threatening, bribing and then deporting a key witness, PI Bala, who sought to present evidence he believed had been suppressed during the trial itself.
The same family and close allies then were exposed for exerting similar pressure against their former fixer, Deepak Jaikashan, who turned to support Bala’s evidence.
Sarawak Report and others have also reported that consistent pressure has been applied on the two convicted bodyguards themselves to shut up and be silent.
The trial (during which both men were kept bizarrely hooded) was widely seen as a fix, after which one of the two, Sirul Azhar Umar, leapt up to shout he had been made a scapegoat.
Don’t rely on Sarawak Report, ask the Appeal Court who dropped the conviction and set both men free on the basis the prosecution had never established a motive for the murder.
As everyone knows, the Federal Court (with Najib as prime minister) later reversed that judgement and gruesomely ordered the two men’s re-arrest and the reinstatement of the death penalty, presumably on the basis that a motive didn’t matter after all.
A motive at last?
However, faced with death or life incarceration both men have now spoken out, thanks to developments comprehensively summarised in Thomas’s book, giving a clear motive at last for what they did – one that is intended to exculpate them and would be at the heart of any defamation suit to be examined by a court.
Both Azilah Hadri, who languishes on death row in Malaysia and has pleaded for a pardon, and Sirul Umar Azhar, who fled to Australia and was eventually placed in a high-security detention centre, have issued separate affidavits stating that they were given orders to shoot the foreign woman because she was a spy.
In the relevant chapter of the book, Thomas gives a clear and compelling account of why he reopened the case in 2019 in the light of Azilah’s astonishing new claims. Staff at the Attorney General’s Chambers, he then says, were “surprised by the amount of evidence which had emerged since 2015″ prompting him to put the matter under a dedicated task force which obtained statements from no less than 40 new witnesses.
These are the “offending paragraphs” in his newly published book which are laid out in Najib’s Letter of Demand: It was against this background of no fresh leads that we received news that Azilah wanted to ‘confess’ to the circumstances behind the Altantuya murder. In December 2019, the AGC [Attorney General’s Chambers] was served a lengthy Statutory Declaration affirmed by Azilah, in which he provided astonishing evidence or orders he had received from Najib Razak to eliminate Altantuya on the grounds that she was a foreign spy and that this was in the national interest.
This was direct evidence from Azilah: he was told personally by Najib to eliminate Altantuya. Azilah stated that he sought the assistance of Sirul.
I asked a senior DPP to fly to Sydney, to seek permission from the authorities there to interview Sirul on the credibility of Azilah’s confession. My senior DPP spent many days interviewing Sirul in Villawood. Sirul’s evidence corroborated Azilah’s. Their joint version was credible, particularly taking into consideration that they were incarcerated in different detention centres in two countries with no means of contacting each other. I was satisfied they were truthful. It was later brought to my attention that Sirul had previously stated that he was ordered to kill a foreign spy. This occurred when he presented his appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in Sydney after the minister had rejected his application for a Protection Visa, again corroborating Azilah’s statutory declaration. This episode had occurred some years previously…..
…….I had instructed the prosecution to leave Azilah’s application to the discretion of the court. We would not object to it. This in effect meant the AGC would not be presenting an opposing argument. Azilah’s review application was pending before the Federal Court when I vacated office.”
Tommy Thomas closes his account on the matter by pointing out that thanks to Covid and the disruption to the courts, Azilah’s review hearing, which he had thus decided not to oppose, remains postponed.
Shortly after, in early 2020, his government was removed from office and Thomas makes no comment on the progress of the task force or its investigations about which there have been no more announcements under the new Attorney General.
Given these circumstances, the case might very well have returned to opacity with the two convicted men silenced behind bars, the wheels of justice grinding to a halt.
Save for Thomas’s bold outspokenness and Najib’s now astonishing reaction to the provocation, which threatens to place the whole matter under the glare of the media spotlight in an open court.
With Najib himself claiming defamation all the evidence and witnesses should now be called to determine the truth, allowing Malaysians to hear for the first time in fulsome detail what he has to say about why his bodyguards left his house and sped over to his aide’s house and abducted the troublemaker.
Also, Musa Safri should give evidence, as the man in charge of those bodyguards, whom Sirul, Azilah and Baginda have all cited as being the coordinator in this matter for his boss.
In his affidavit, Azilah says Safri ordered him to kill Altantuya on Najib’s behalf and then introduced him to the then deputy prime minister/defence minister to receive the orders directly, which Azilah says Najib gave.
Sirul likewise has testified that Azilah, his own superior, had told him they needed to kill the foreign spy who was outside Baginda’s house.
PI Bala later testified that Baginda had confided to him that Najib was also Altantuya’s lover, and that there was resistance to giving her the money she demanded.
Now, that adds up to a whole new bunch of suggested and rather plausible motives that were never heard at the original trial. A civil trial will determine the evidence to back them up and whether Thomas gave them credence.
And, of course, we will discover if Najib is right on this occasion to (yet again) complain that he has been the victim of a web of lowly schemers under his employment, carrying out dirty work that might have appeared to be in his interests (silencing an embarrassing loudmouth), until they got caught. – Sarawak Report
Read Azilah’s statement on which Najib is apparently now willing to be questioned.