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Malaysia

Hitman offers to return to Malaysia to tell full story of Mongolian model’s murder

Sirul Azhar Umar, who is in immigration detention in Sydney, says he will help reveal what happened in 2009 murder case, if he is pardoned

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 May, 2018, 6:41pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 May, 2018, 6:57pm

A former hitman who has spent the last three years in an Australian detention centre has offered to return home to Malaysia and tell the full story of an execution that dogged the former prime minister Najib Razak.

Sirul Azhar Umar, who is held in the high security wing, told the Malaysian website Malaysiakini he was willing to assist the new Pakatan Harapan government to reveal what transpired in the case of Altantuya Shaariibuu – a Mongolian model and translator who was murdered in 2009 – provided he was given a full pardon.

He told Malaysiakini he believed many in Malaysia now saw him as a political detainee.

Sirul, a former commando, and a fellow officer were found guilty of the 2006 murder of Altantuya, who was the lover and translator for one of Najib’s close associates.

She was killed in a forest in Subang and her body blown up. She had allegedly demanded payment for her role in securing a French submarine deal.

Sirul and the other officer were convicted and sentenced to death, but Sirul fled to Australia while on release pending an appeal.

He was picked up on an Interpol warrant but Australia has not returned him because he is facing the death penalty.

The murder has dogged Najib, though there is no evidence linking him to the case, and he has said that he never met Altantuya.

The Guardian reported that last month Datuk Khairul Anwar Rahmat, the former head of Najib’s United Malay National party’s youth wing, flew to Sydney and met Sirul, with the approval of Australia’s Home Affairs Department.

Sirul’s application for a temporary protection visa in Australia requires him to prove he is of sufficient good character, which would likely mean establishing that he did not mastermind the murder.

Since this month’s election, the Malaysian political landscape has shifted dramatically. The former prime minister has been refused permission to leave the country and is under investigation on allegations of corruption and other abuses of office.

In the interview Sirul congratulated Pakatan Harapan chairman Mahathir Mohamad and PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim on the election victory, and said he was willing to assist the new government, “to tell what actually transpired provided that the government grants me [a] full pardon.”

The website did not reveal how it obtained the interview and authorities at the Villawood detention centre refused to let the detainee speak to The Guardian.

The Altantuya case has been linked to the Malaysian government’s purchase of two French-built Scorpene-class submarines and alleged kickbacks by an ally of Najib, who was defence minister at the time.

Australia faces diplomatic dilemma over detained killer sentenced to death in Malaysia

In the interview Sirul noted that he had previously served under Mahathir and Anwar. He thanked Anwar for urging this week that a fresh trial be held.

The king has power to pardon convicted Malaysians, but Greg Lopez, a Malaysia expert at Murdoch University, said he considered a pardon for murder unlikely, particularly as Sirul had acknowledged during his trial that he had killed several people.

But it was possible that Sirul’s death sentence would be commuted, allowing him to be deported, Lopez said.

“I expect a lot of horse trading will go on between the Malaysian government and the Australian government regarding this case.”

Altantuya, a Mongolian translator, was the former lover of Najib’s adviser and confidant Razak Baginda.

She was abducted in front of Baginda’s Kuala Lumpur home and driven to a remote clearing on the outskirts of the city.

There she was shot dead with a high-powered semi-automatic gun and her body destroyed with military grade explosives.

Sirul and his fellow officer were found guilty of the murder in 2009 but no motive has ever been established.

Neither of them had met Altantuya until they forced her into the back of a car, the court found.

The court also found they had been directly engaged by Baginda to stop her harassing him for an alleged US$500,000 she claimed she was owed for her help in negotiating the submarine deal.

A direct link between Najib and the murder has never been established. Najib has always denied any involvement or ever knowing Altantuya.