Malaysian Analyst Faces Death Penalty in Mongolian Model Murder [Updated]
Setting the stage for a lurid courtroom drama that is sure to grip a country that officially sees itself as upright and puritanical, one of Malaysia’s most prominent political analysts has been charged with the gruesome slaying of a Mongolian “free lance” fashion model who claimed that he was her lover and the father of her infant child.
Well-connected analyst Abdul Razak Baginda was charged with “abetment”, or ordering the murder of his alleged Mongolian love interest, Altantuya Shaaribuu, in the magistrate’s court in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. He faces a mandatory death penalty if convicted.
The skeletal remains of the 28-year old woman, described as “stunning” in press reports, shot twice and torn apart by explosives, were found by police on November 6 in a jungle hilltop near Kuala Lumpur after she had been reported missing. She was later identified through DNA testing.
Razak, the head of a think tank with strong connections to the ruling party and the Malaysian military, is alleged to have conspired in ordering two policemen to kill the woman on October 18, while the slaying allegedly took place the following day. No plea was recorded from Razak.
Also charged in the case are chief inspector Azilah Hadri, 30, and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, 35, both officers of the elite Special Action Force, who were indicted on Wednesday.
Given Razak’s strong political connections – he is close to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, the deputy prime minister and long time defense minister – and the element of illicit sex, the case is likely to shine unwanted attention on the inner workings of the United Malays National Organization, Malaysia’s dominant ethnic party.
The public will want to know how Razak, for example, was allegedly able to conspire with elite police officers normally reserved for service to the upper echelons of government. A trial of this nature is likely to allow even the normally tame Malaysian media a certain latitude in a country UMNO has ruled with an iron hand for decades.
Shaaribuu arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Mongolia on Oct. 6 intent on getting Razak to acknowledge his role as the father of her baby, according to press accounts. She reportedly also asked for money.
Accompanied by her sister and a cousin, she claimed that the baby was the product of a relationship she had with Razak when he visited Mongolia two years ago.
The model even claimed the analyst was her husband. Razak is divorced.
Initially, Razak was held for questioning along with three Malaysian police personnel including a woman detective from the SAF, which is used to guard VIPs and other dignitaries. The woman officer was released on bail Wednesday after her two colleagues were charged.
One of the most accessible and quotable of local analysts, Razak is not a politician but his think tank, the Malaysian Strategic Research Institute, functioned as an international propaganda vehicle for both UMNO and the Malaysian armed forces.
Razak, 46, who became head of the institute when it was set up in 1993, is endowed with a charm, a command of language and easy access to power due to his connections with Najib. A prolific writer, he penned a book in praise of the Malaysian Armed Forces, published by them, and numerous other works including “Malaysia and the Islamic World,” a collection of essays he edited with a forward by Najib.
According to news reports, Shaaribuu found out where Razak lived, but she never got to see him. Police say she received a phone call to meet him but according to news reports she was pushed into a car and driven away, never to be seen again.
When she did not return to her hotel, the sister and cousin lodged reports with the police, and eventually with the Mongolian honorary consul. Mongolian authorities expressed their concern directly to the government.
Ultimately, a task force of 40 police officers was assembled to put together the circumstances that led the woman to
visit Razak’s house, and whether he had summoned the police officers to take her away.
Local news reports also indicated that police were investigating where the model and Razak first met and whether they had had a sexual relationship. Musa Hassan, the inspector general of police, promised there would be no cover-up.
“Whoever is involved will be brought to book regardless of his stature,” Musa told reporters before charges were laid. “I am also going to find out how and who authorized the issuance of the explosives used in the murder.”
Razak’s lawyer, Shafee Abdullah, had earlier acknowledged that his client knew the victim, according to the Associated Press, but said he was certain he would be cleared.
“I am totally convinced of his innocence,” Shafee said after Razak was first remanded for questioning, “he is completely unimplicated.”
Mongolian’s murder: Razak reveals his relationship with Altantuya
SHAH ALAM (Jan 19, 2007): In a desperate bid to secure bail, political analyst Abdul Razak Abdullah today revealed in High Court his relationship with Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Saying that he first met Altantunya in Hongkong at the end of 2004, and in a relationship that lasted about eight months, Abdul Razak said he gave her US$10,000 three to four times, and more.
He said Altantuya told him that she was a student, and to earn a living she worked as a “part-timer” but Abdul Razak did not elaborate what it meant.
He said he also took pity on Altantuya because she said her mother had cancer.
Razak’s statement was contained in an affidavit tendered to the court by his counsel Wong Kian Kheong who read it out.
The affidavit was tendered by Wong in an attempt to obtain bail which High Court judge Datuk K.N.Segara had denied him earlier because there was no medical grounds to support his application for bail.
Wong told the court that there were no reasonable grounds to hold his client under detention as he has not been found guilty.
He then tendered the affidavit which details Abdul Razak’s movements, actions and relationship with Altantuya.
Abdul Razak said he got acquainted with the Mongolian woman in Hongkong at the end of 2004 and had met her in Shanghai in early 2005, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and France in middle of 2005.
The relationship continued for about seven to eight months until Abdul Razak ended it.
Razak said Altantuya identified herself as Aminah during their relationship.
Wong said Razak stopped giving money to Altantuya after she continued to demand for more and he could not tolerate it any longer.
During Wong’s argument, Abdul Razak was seen asking Wong’s assistant for a piece of paper to jot down something before passing it back for Wong’s attention.
In the affidavit, Abdul Razak also explained about the harassment he encountered from Altantuya when he decided to end his relationship with the woman.
He said the matter became serious when Altantuya continued with the harassments through SMSes and telephone calls and he decided to seek help when Altantuya threatened to harm his daughter.
Based on a lawyer’s advice, Abdul Razak hired a private detective, former policeman P. Balasubramaniam and an assistant.
The private investigators were supposed to provide security to him and his family members who were told about the affair with Altantuya.
Abdul Razak also sought the aid of a DSP Musa Safri who introduced him to C/Insp Azilah Hadri.
He said Musa had told him that Azilah would be able to help him and he met him (Azilah) personally once, while at other times the communication between both of them was through telephone.
Abdul Razak said in the affidavit that Azilah was responsible for the death of about six or more people and he would be able to help the political analyst.
At this point, lawyer representing Azilah, Zulkifli Noordin interjected by saying that the accusations against his client were unjust.
Segara ordered Zulkifli to sit and not to get excited as he was supposed to hold a watching brief and not take part in the proceedings.
As Wong continued with the affidavit, Segara interjected from time to time telling him to stick to the facts and not draw inferences from the events that unfolded as Abdul Razak attempted to “get rid” of Altantuya.
At one juncture, Wong skipped part of the affidavit on Abdul Razak meeting Musa at the Deputy Prime Minister’s (DPM) office on official matters, during which he (Abdul Razak) enquired about Altantuya’s fate.
Segara became angry and said: “Why are you avoiding the part, there’s nothing to hide, the DPM would not be embarrassed if the matter is mentioned. This is the court. Everything has to be disclosed.”
Segara said the affidavit produced by Abdul Razak pointed to a conclusion that he had abetted with Azilah to “get rid” of Altantuya from his life, but the matter was to be deliberated when the trial begins.
He said Abdul Razak despite knowing that Azilah had killed several people, chose to continue seeking his aid.
Wong said Abdul Razak had specifically told Azilah not to cause any harm to Altantuya, but he did not want her to be sent to lock-up and later deported as the Mongolian would be angry with him and his relationship with her would come out in the open.
The court was also told that at one point, Azilah told Abdul Razak “Tonight sir, you can sleep peacefully”.
Wong also tried to substantiate his appeal for bail by saying that the previous two judges who heard Abdul Razak’s case had allowed him to be released on bail, but Segara cut him off by saying he will not comment on their decisions.
After Wong was done, DPP Salehuddin Saidin tried to stand up to speak but Segara quickly told him: “You don’t have to say anything.”
Wong declined to comment when asked if he would appeal against the decision.
Shedding tears, Abdul Razak hugged his wife, daughter, parents and siblings as he was led away by the police to prison.
Earlier, Segara said the court was unable to consider Abdul Razak’s application as he had not fulfilled the exceptional circumstance for him to be allowed bail.
“There is not a single evidence to show that he is incapacitated by illness. Is he telling the truth or is he malingering,” said Segara.
He said Abdul Razak had failed to produce a medical report in relation to his medical condition and therefore the court was put in a difficult situation as it was unable to weigh his application based on exceptional and special circumstances.
“Without the benefit of a medical report, I won’t even consider. It must be supported by documents. I have given enough time but the medical reports were not forthcoming at all.
“Affirment that he is suffering serious medical conditions and hypothesis that he requires constant medical attention is insufficient,” he added.
Segara also said he was rather amazed, based on details in the affidavit, that the medical conditions allegedly suffered by Abdul Razak was not detected by the Gleneages Medical Centre but was determined when he sought treatment in Kuala Lumpur Hospital after his remand.
Segara also said the offence Abdul Razak was charged with is serious and non-bailable.
However he said, Abdul Razak can at anytime approach the court if his medical condition, as claimed, became evident and the court would consider his application for bail at that time, based on evidence produced.