Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Private detective testifies in murder trial in Malaysia

AP , SHAH ALAM, MALAYSIA

A Mongolian woman had publicly cursed a prominent Malaysian accused of abbeting her murder, and demanded US$500,000 from him two days before she was blown up with explosives, a private detective testified yesterday.

In the dock is Abdul Razak Baginda, a well-known political analyst who prosecutors say conspired with two policemen last October to kill Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28-year-old freelance translator and interpreter with whom he had an eight-month extramarital affair.

The prosecution contends that Abdul Razak had her killed by the policemen because she was pestering him for money after he ended the affair.

Abdul Razak, 47, is charged with abetting her murder and the policemen charged with murder. All three face the death penalty if convicted.

Abdul Razak is close to the governing party as well as to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak. The trial, which opened on Monday, was front-page news in all local newspapers yesterday, a reflection of the high public interest in the case.

It has raised questions about political involvement and the possibility of lurid and sensational details becoming public.

Najib, the second-most powerful man in the government, has denied allegations that he knows more about the murder, and the scandal has not overtly tainted the administration or threatened its position.

P. Balasubramaniam, a private investigator hired by Abdul Razak, testified yesterday that he was hastily summoned by his client on Oct. 17 last year to remove the woman making a scene outside his home.

Balasubramaniam, the prosecution's first witness, said that when he reached the house he saw Shaariibuu "creating a commotion" on the street.

"She was shouting `Razak bastard you come out. I want to speak to you.' She was very angry," he said.

He said shortly afterward police arrived and took her to a police station where she was released without charge. Balasubramaniam said he talked to her outside the police station about her grievances.

She "demanded US$500,000 and three air tickets to Mongolia," he said.

The prosecution told the court on Monday that Abdul Razak conspired with Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Constable Sirul Azhar Umar to have Shaariibuu killed on Oct. 19 last year using explosives.

Only fragments of Shaariibuu's body were found in a forest clearing near Shah Alam, the capital of Selangor state.

Balasubramaniam said he urged Razak to file a police complaint after the Oct. 17 incident but Razak refused.

"He said he will contact some senior police officials that he knows to take the appropriate action," Balasubramaniam said.

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