The Malaysian police are set to reopen an investigation into the murder of a Mongolian model in 2006, in a politically charged case that could add to the woes of Najib Razak, the beleaguered former prime minister.
Altantuya Shaariibuu, 28, was killed and blown up with military grade explosives in a forest near the capital, Kuala Lumpur, after being kidnapped late at night outside the home of her alleged lover Abdul Razak Baginda - a defence analyst who advised Mr Najib between 2000 and 2008.
Two former police officers, Sirul Azhar Umar and Azilah Hadri, were sentenced to death for the crime but reports have alleged that they served as bodyguards for Mr Najib, who was deputy prime minister at the time of her gruesome death.
Sirul fled to Australia to seek asylum and is currently being held at a detention centre in Sydney.
The police confirmed to The Star newspaper that they were reopening their investigations after Shaaribuu’s father flew to Malaysia from Mongolia to file a fresh statement.
Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s prime minister, who ousted Mr Najib in a shock election result in May, pledged his support for Setev Shaaribuu’s case “if there is new evidence”, after meeting with him on Wednesday evening, reported Channel News Asia.
Mr Shaaribuu has alleged that the former government tried to block the truth from emerging, and that the true plot behind his daughter’s murder was covered up.
In his statement to the police, he named a former aide to Mr Najib as a “crucial witness.” Mr Najib himself has always denied knowing the victim.
However, the timing of the case could spell more trouble for the ousted leader, who is currently banned from leaving the country amid another investigation into an alleged multi-billion dollar corruption scandal involving the 1Malaysia Development Berhad state fund, that he earlier founded.
In claims made to Reuters on Tuesday Dr Mahathir said that the authorities have “an almost perfect case” against Mr Najib on charges of embezzlement, misappropriation and bribery linked to 1MDB.
Mr Najib responded in his first interview since his stunning election defeat, telling the news agency that he knew nothing about money from the state fund appearing in his personal bank account.
He claimed his advisors and the management and board of 1MDB had wrongly kept the embezzlement of funds a secret from him.
Public anger over the scandal, which US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has described as “kleptocracy at its worst”, was a significant factor in his election defeat.
Mr Najib insisted in the interview that he did not know if hundreds of millions of dollars that moved through his personal account was from 1MDB, and if money from the fund was eventually laundered to acquire assets globally, including yachts, paintings and jewellery.
He did shed some light, however, on the origin of dozens of luxury bags that were recently seized by the police from properties linked to his family.
The handbags were gifts and wedding presents to his wife and daughter, and had nothing to do with 1MDB, he said.
“These were gifts, particularly with my daughter’s they were tagged, they were actually labelled: when, by whom,” he said.
He added that his son-in-law, Daniyar Nazarbayev, the nephew of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Kazakh president, also gifted many bags to Rosmah Mansor, Mr Najib’s wife.
“People might find it hard to understand, but my son-in-law for example, he gets Birkin from his source, five or six at one go,” he said. “His family has got some means, so it has nothing to do with 1MDB if it comes from Kazakhstan.”