WikiLeaks and the Altantuya murderBy Asia Sentinel May 17, 2011 4:55PM UTC
Cables show the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur was closely watching the trial, reports Asia Sentinel
The US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur closely followed the murder trial of Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu and frequently discussed whether now-Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was involved in the killing, according to diplomatic cables supplied to Asia Sentinel by the WikiLeaks website, and theorized that the trial of her killers was being deliberately delayed.
Altantuya was murdered in October of 2006 by two of Najib’s bodyguards, Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, 30 and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, 35. who stood trial and were pronounced guilty in April 2009. Abdul Razak Baginda, one of Najib’s best friends and Altantuya’s lover, was accused of participating in the murder but was allowed to be freed without having to put on a defense.
The murder has been tied closely to the US$1 billion acquisition of French submarines by the Malaysian ministry of defense, which Najib headed as defense minister during the acquisitions. Altantuya reportedly acted as a translator on the transaction, which netted Razak Baginda’s company a €114 million “commission” on the purchase. Reportedly she had been offered US$500,000 for her part in translating. After she was jilted, she vainly demanded payment. A letter she had written was made public after her death saying she regretted she was attempting to “blackmail” Razak Baginda.
French lawyers are investigating whether some of the €114 million was kicked back to French or Malaysian politicians. Despite the scandal, the US government has not publicly backed away from Najib. In April 2010, Najib in fact visited the White House and was praised by US President Barack Obama for the parliament’s passage of an act allowing Malaysian authorities to take action against individuals and entities engaged in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The cables are replete with accounts of a long series of meetings with Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, in which Anwar repeatedly told the Americans that Najib was connected to corrupt practices in the acquisition of the submarines as well as the purchase of Sukhoi Su-MCM-30 Flanker fighter jets from Russia. Anwar also repeatedly called attention to Najib’s connection to the Altantuya murder case.
A Jan. 24, 2007 cable, marked secret, wrote that “Perceived irregularities on the part of prosecutors and the court, and the alleged destruction of some evidence, suggested to many that the case was subject to strong political pressure intended to protect Najib.”