Malaysian police are hunting three suspected contract killers after Hussain Ahmad Najadi, the 75- year-old founder of one of the nation's largest banks, was shot dead in Kuala Lumpur after a business meeting at a temple.
The Bahrain-born businessman was gunned down on Monday near a parking lot outside the Kuan Yin Temple while walking with his Malaysian wife, Cheong Mei Kuen, 49.
Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohmad Salleh said yesterday they had gone to meet someone about a property deal.
City crime investigation deputy chief Khairi Ahrasa said Najadi, a permanent Malaysia resident, was shot twice in the chest and died on the spot, while his wife suffered serious injuries. But Salleh said Cheong suffered only injuries to her hand.
Najadi pioneered business links between Malaysia and the Middle East, founding the Arab-Malaysian Development Bank in 1975 with 55 per cent Malaysian and 45 per cent Arab interests, according to the bank's website.
He was no longer involved with the lender, which changed its name to AMMB in 1983 and is the country's fifth-biggest by market value.
Police had "identified the shooter and another two people who were with him through CCTV camera pictures from the temple and surrounding area" and had about seven witnesses, Salleh said.
After firing four shots, the three escaped in a taxi with a fake licence plate.
Najadi's son, Pascal Najadi, expressed shock over his father's killing in broad daylight.
"This is not the Malaysia my father knew and loved, and the whole world will be watching to see how the authorities handle this case," The Star newspaper quoted him as saying from Moscow.
In other high-profile cases, R. Sri Sanjeevan, the 29-year-old chairman of Malaysia's crime watchdog group MyWatch, is recovering in hospital after surgery to remove a bullet after being shot on Saturday, the New Straits Times reported, without citing a motive. Sosilawati Lawiya, a cosmetics millionaire, was murdered three years ago.
Opposition lawmaker Lim Kit Siang said the killings threatened to damage Malaysia's reputation. He said Malaysians had long complained about rising thefts and robberies, but crime now appeared to be getting worse.
"It is really worrying for all Malaysians. The government must make fighting crime a top priority and band all resources to make the country safe," he said.
Gun ownership in Malaysia is restricted, and holders are required to carry licences. Voters cited crime and social problems as their biggest concern after the economy in a survey of 1,018 people conducted in December by the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose coalition returned to power with a reduced majority in May, made fighting crime a policy priority under a government transformation programme started in 2010.
The issue of serious crime will be brought up in the next session of parliament following the latest shootings, Najib has said.
Najadi "left behind a legacy of innovation", said Johari Low Abdullah, who helped run the bank in its early days.
Bloomberg and Agence France-Presse