A Malaysian death row inmate’s explosive claim that he murdered Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006 on the explicit orders of the former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak is part of a conspiracy by those seeking to undermine the ex-leader, Najib’s lawyer said on Tuesday. A day after the statutory declaration from prison by former policeman Azilah Hadri was made public, Najib’s lawyer Shafee Abdullah put forth a stunning claim of his own – that the convicted killer had “met a VVIP outside the prison” in February. “Outside the prison, not in the prison. This when he is a death row prisoner. Which is totally a breach of protocol. But as I said, I cannot confirm that. I’m trying to confirm,” Shafee told reporters. Explained: Altantuya’s murder and the allegations against Najib At the tail end of a press conference on Tuesday evening over a separate issue, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad did not respond substantively when asked if he had met Azilah. Instead the 94-year-old premier shook his head, smiled and left the venue, reports said. The government said on Wednesday that the premier had never met Azilah, and dismissed Shafee’s claim that it was involved in the release of the statutory declaration. While Shafee offered no further details of the supposed meeting, the lawyer echoed Najib’s comments on Facebook on Monday that the latest development was part of a strategy to implicate the former premier for the murder so that he can be detained without bail. The lawyer was speaking after a scheduled case management hearing over Azilah’s bid for a retrial based on the fresh details he revealed. The hearing was held just a day after Azilah’s statutory declaration was published exclusively by the Malaysiakini website. The document was tendered in court last week. Shafee, who represents Najib in separate trials into the ex-leader’s alleged links to the 1MDB financial scandal , said he was present to hold a watching brief for his client in the case. Azilah’s startling revelation was a hot topic in Malaysia on Monday. He claimed in his declaration that Najib – who was deputy prime minister and defence minister when Altantuya was murdered in 2006 – had explicitly ordered him to “kill and destroy” the Mongolian model because she was a “foreign spy”. Azilah and Sirul Azhar Omar, both elite police commandos tasked as bodyguards to Najib, were sentenced to death by the country’s highest appellate court in 2015 after an earlier acquittal was overturned. Hitman says Najib Razak ordered killing of model he accused of spying Sirul however absconded to Australia, and Canberra has refused to extradite him owing to its policy of not sending suspects back to a jurisdiction where they may face the death penalty. Shafee said he did not blame Azilah for his attempt to seek a retrial. “It is a desperate application to save his life. What I can blame is the [implication] of my client and one other person when there is not one shred of evidence [for 10 years]. Shafee described the statutory declaration as “quite laughable” and “as unbelievable as a cow jumped over the moon”. The lawyer said he believed there could be a “coordinated measure” by Sirul as well because “he knew for a fact” that “two or three individuals” had visited the former police officer in the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre outside Sydney. “I cannot disclose who these people are … a reporter, and two other persons, I cannot tell you now because it is extremely sensitive,” he said. While the lawyer did not directly refer to Najib’s chief opponents – the Pakatan Harapan coalition of Mahathir that defeated him in elections last year – he did say that “some people” were getting desperate because Najib’s 1MDB trials were not going as fast as they hoped. “It is a desperate act of some people to victimise my client who seems to now be very popular,” he said. Hitman offers to return to Malaysia to tell full story of Mongolian model’s murder The lawyer said Najib would welcome any fresh probe into the murder. His alleged links to Altantuya were a dark mark on his 2009-2018 tenure as prime minister. “Well, I hope they reinvestigate. My client [Najib] wants them to reinvestigate. For one purpose – we want to know who put Azilah in this mode of perjury. Who is behind this perjury?” Mahathir’s top ministers have so far refrained from commenting but Lim Kit Siang, a heavyweight from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) – one of the constituents of the ruling coalition – wrote in a commentary that an “inquiry into the whole process of investigation” was necessary following Azilah’s written statement. Another DAP MP, Lim Lip Eng, told Malaysiakini that several elements of the prosecutions’ case required scrutiny, including the acquittal of Abdul Razak Baginda, an associate of Najib who was initially implicated in the murder, and the motive behind Sirul and Azila’s actions. Abdul Razak and Altantuya were widely rumoured to be romantically involved at the time of her death. She was said to have accompanied him on business trips made on behalf of the Malaysian government that involved controversial defence deals. She disappeared outside Abdul Razak’s house on October 19, 2006 and was never seen again. Three weeks later, her remains were found in a forest in Selangor. Police concluded she had been shot twice and her body blown up by explosives.