Saturday, August 24, 2013

Winners and losers in the Altantuya saga

Altantuya Shaariibuu, the former Mongolian model whose life was ended brutally in Malaysia, but no one faces justice for the crime. August 24, 2013.

The murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu has had more twists and turns than a drive up Cameron Highlands, the latest being Friday's acquittal of policemen Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar.

This has never been a simple criminal case, and today, The Malaysian Insider looks at those who have had their reputations hammered by the case and those who have been let off easy.

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We know her name. We know that her son misses her. We know that some time in 2006 she came to Malaysia to claim US$500,000 from Abdul Razak Baginda, a one-time adviser to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

She allegedly became a nuisance and this led to her disappearance and death. We know that her immigration details were erased, leaving no trace of her entry into Malaysia. We know that her staying alive would have been untenable for an individual or individuals.

But Malaysia could not protect her or deliver justice for her family.

We may console ourselves by saying that her death galvanised the opposition and put the rich and connected in a tight spot but until the real story of the death of Altantuya Shaariibuu is known, Malaysia has failed her.

Najib Razak

This case will forever be a millstone around the neck of the prime minister. Mainly because the main actors in the case were connected or known to him.

Abdul Razak Baginda, Altantuya's boyfriend/lover, was his adviser, and Musa Safri, who introduced Razak to the policemen, was Najib's aide-de-camp.

And there was that unsavoury stuff surrounding the statutory declarations by the late P. Balasubramaniam (or PI Bala, as he was more popularly known), the private investigator hired by Razak to keep an eye on Altantuya. Bala alleged that he was bundled out of the country by Najib's associates and given funds by the PM's brother.

There is no evidence linking Najib to the murder but the fact that a couple of his friends and staff had seen her or heard about her presence in Malaysia before her death put the spotlight firmly on Najib.

And the glare of the spotlight continues to be bright seven years on.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail

Everyone has a set of target to meet, from the lofty to the lowly. Everyone except AG Gani Patail.

Under him, prosecutors have lost a whole bunch of high-profile cases.

But who cares and who is counting, right? He still has a powerful job.

Even a rookie lawyer could have seen that the case against the policemen would have been strengthened by showing their common intent and this could have been done by putting Musa Safri - the man who had contact with them - on the stand.

Gani said yesterday that he still firmly believes that Musa's testimony has no bearing on the case. But given his track record in the courtroom, why would we rely on his legal brain?


Musa Safri

He got promoted, holds a senior position in Special Branch and occasionally has to deal with the irritation of publicity when the case of Altantuya comes up.

Yesterday was one such day when the Court of Appeal also said that it was puzzled why this missing piece in the chain of events in the murder of the model was not called to testify for the prosecution.

According to Abdul Razak Baginda, he was introduced to Azilah and Sirul by Musa, who was then the aide-de-camp to Najib. Razak also said that he asked Musa a couple of times what had happened to Altantuya.

The court would have loved to hear from Musa what exactly did Razak tell him about Altantuya, what were his instructions to the police sharpshooters, did either policeman inform him what had happened to Altantuya, and did he tell his boss that he had introduced two policemen to Razak?

So many questions? But Musa was spared the hot seat and the penetrating questions. He still has his comfortable life.

Abdul Razak Baginda

After lying low in London, the one-time Najib adviser is back in town. He still has his comfortable bungalow in Damansara, a bank balance and his freedom.

He is no longer part of Najib's inner circle, a small price to pay for the infamy this case brought the First Family.

Razak was charged with the two policemen but was freed of abetting in the murder of Altantuya without his defence being called.

The prosecution did not appeal the court's decision, a curious decision given the fact that Altantuya entered the country with the sole purpose of seeing Razak and his sworn statement that she was allegedly harassing him.

Perhaps the reaction of Altantuya's father then summed up what many Malaysians thought about the acquittal.

"My daughter knows only one Malaysian and it is Razak Baginda. Now my daughter is dead and Baginda freed," said Setev Shaariibuu.

Razak still draws stares when he goes to Bangsar or other places and craves for closure, a return to the old days when he was just another face in the crowd. - August 24, 2013.
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