Family of slain Mongolian model seeks answer as lawsuit begins
Altantuya Shaariibuu is seen in this undated photo.
The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, January 23, 2019 3:00AM EST
SHAH ALAM, Malaysia -- The family of a Mongolian woman murdered in Malaysia 13 years ago hopes to find answers with a lawsuit that opened in court this week, their lawyer said Wednesday.
Altantuya Shaariibuu was shot dead and blown up with military-grade plastic explosives in a jungle outside Kuala Lumpur in October 2006. Her killing touched off a scandal linked to former Prime Minister Najib Razak, but he has repeatedly denied any involvement.
Two members of an elite police unit who were Najib's bodyguards were convicted of killing Altantuya. Her lover Abdul Razak Baginda, a close aide to Najib, was tried but acquitted of abetting the crime, whose planner was never determined. Altantuya was 28 and pregnant at the time of her death.
There was speculation that Altantuya, who was also working as a translator for Abdul Razak, was killed to shut her up from exposing alleged corruption involving the purchase of submarines from France under Najib, who was then deputy premier and defence minister. Najib later became prime minister, until his party lost power in a shocking defeat in May last year.
The new government last year ordered investigations into her death to be reopened following appeals from Altantuya's family. The family filed a lawsuit in 2007 seeking 100 million ringgit ($24 million) for the shock and trauma they suffered over her death, but the case was delayed pending conclusion of the criminal trial.
Lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo said Altantuya's family wants justice for her. One of her two sons died last year, she said.
The family "wants to know who ordered her murder and we hope to get some answers from this trial," she told The Associated Press. The lawsuit names the government, Abdul Razak and the two policemen as defendants.
Burmaa Oyunchimeg, a cousin of Altantuya, testified Wednesday that Altantuya and Abdul Razak were lovers since 2004. She said Altantuya had shown her photographs of a trip to Paris with Abdul Razak in 2005, including one of her taken with Abdul Razak and Najib.
"I remember I saw a picture of three people, two men and Altantuya. I asked her who they were, and she said one was the deputy prime minister and the other was (Abdul) Razak who worked with him and do business together," said Burmaa, the first witness in the trial. She didn't elaborate further.
Najib reiterated later Wednesday that he didn't know the Mongolian nor had any connection with her.
"That is slander. Lies. I never met her," he was quoted as saying by the Malaysiakini online news portal.
One of the policemen convicted of the murder fled to Australia while his conviction was on appeal. Sirul Azhar Umar has been detained there since 2015 for overstaying his visa and has offered to return to Malaysia to provide evidence in the case if he is promised a pardon. His colleague is on death row.
Altantuya's father, Shaariibuu Setev, is due to testify later this week.