Altantuya’s murder: Endless possibilities

The cast of this murder mystery – including the prime minister himself – are not yet off the hook, pending appeals and a civil suit that promises more answers.

Anisah Shukry, FMT

An exotic model murdered by explosives. A prime minister linked by the court of public opinion. A jilted lover living in exile. And a shady, multi-multibillion ringgit deal between two countries.

They sound like tropes Sydney Sheldon would dream up of  – the perfect ingredients for a cheesy mystery-cum-romance novel one could breeze through on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

But there is no ending for this mystery; on the contrary, the saga has taken on a new twist with the acquittal of Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar – two men who were originally convicted of her murder, but who now walk free.

So we move on to the next chapter of this novel that is now seven years in the making: Who killed Altantuya?

With Azilah and Sirul’s guilty convictions overturned, and no one to pin the murder on, we are now back to square one, when bits of Altantuya’s remains were found near the Subang Dam in Puncak Alam, Shah Alam in 2006.

Oh, but there are many players in this murder case. First up on the list is Abdul Razak Baginda, a political analyst and Atantuya’s one time lover, who brokered the controversial deal between Malaysia and France for the two Scorpene submarines with her help.

Altantuya admitted in a letter found after her murder that she had been blackmailing Abdul Razak, who ended their relationship, US$500,000 in return for her silence over the deal.

Flanked by her sister and cousin, she arrived in Malaysia on Oct 9, 2006, and reportedly engaged a private investigator to track him down.

A worried Abdul Razak contacted Deputy Superintendent Musa Safri to seek assistance to prevent Altantuya from disturbing him and his family, according to evidence revealed in court.

DSP Musa helpfully introduced Azilah to Abdul Razak, and the rest is history: Altantuya was murdered between Oct 19 and Oct 20 2006 – her body blown up to conceal all evidence.

Unsubstantiated accusations

Despite this, Abdul Razak, who was charged with abetting Azilah and Sirul, was acquitted by the High Court on Oct 31, 2008, without his defence being called, after the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against him.

Next on the list is Musa himself, who was then defence minister NajibTun Razak’s aide de camp. Little is known about him beyond the fact that he was in heavy contact with Abdul Razak and was the middle man for Abdul Razak and Azilah.

Despite the text messages between Abdul Razak and Musa that were revealed in court, he was not called to testify, on the grounds that he was not present at the meeting between Azilah and Abdul Razak.

The prosecution’s failure to call him to court was one of the reasons the Court of Appeal overturned Sirul and Azilah’s guilty conviction on Friday.

The third and fourth suspects – at least, in the court of public opinion – are Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor.

They have been accused by the likes of carpet dealer Deepak Jaikishan and the late private investigator P Balasubramaniam for being involved in her murder.

Both have denied this, and, like Musa, both were not called to testify in court. Political immunity? Or was it simply a case of not enough proof?

Najib’s proven links to the murder are precarious at best: that he knew Abdul Razak and Musa Safri.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah told the Court of Appeal in June that Najib’s relations with Razak and Musa was not enough to attribute him to the murder.

Accusations that Najib had had an affair with Altantuya, that Rosmah ordered for a statutory declaration linking her husband to the murder to be recanted, that Rosmah herself was at the scene of the murder, remain just that: unsubstantiated accusations.