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Oil report

Detective retracts accusation against Malaysian deputy PM

KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 (Reuters) - A Malaysian detective retracted on Friday allegations he made linking Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak to the brutal murder of a Mongolian woman amid a flurry of political scandals to grip the country.

The retraction came after Najib denied again on Thursday that he had ever met the victim, Altantuya Shaariibuu. One of his top political advisers, Abdul Razak Baginda, is being tried on charges of abetting the murder of the woman, who was shot in the head twice and her body blown up with explosives in 2006.

Najib denied he ever had a sexual relationship with her, or had conspired to cover up her murder, allegations made on Thursday by P. Balasubramaniam, a private detective who was working for Abdul Razak at the time of the murder.

Balasubramanian issued a legal deposition on Friday saying he was retracting “the entire contents” of his earlier statement, which was made “under duress”.

The flurry of accusations and denials are stemming from a high-stakes battle for power in Malaysia, featuring mud-flying allegations about sex, lies, murder and sodomy.

In another surprising turn to the political scandals Malaysia is mired in, Najib also told reporters the young man who has accused opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy had turned to him for help because he was so traumatised.

“There is no conspiracy,” Najib said. “The boy came to my house to complain to me that he was sodomised by Anwar. Initially I was sceptical. He needed help because he was so traumatised. It was up to him and the police to decide the next course of action.” Najib said it was the first time he met Anwar’s accuser.

Najib’s remarks came days after Anwar rejected the allegation as a top-level conspiracy to keep him from running for parliament and stymie his drive to woo defectors from the ruling coalition.

RIVALS FOR PRIME MINISTER

Najib and Anwar are rivals to become prime minister. Abdullah has said he intends to hand power to his ambitious deputy after the ruling party holds its annual meeting in December.

Najib on Thursday called the allegations of his links to the murder case a “desperate attempt” by Anwar to divert attention from his own sodomy investigation.

Police are investigating the 60-year-old father of six for allegedly sodomising his 23-year-old aide. A similar charge in 1998 landed the former deputy premier in jail for six years until the nation’s highest court overturned the conviction in 2004.

Anwar said on Thursday the sodomy allegations surfaced because leading government figures feared he would use the detective’s allegations in the Altantuya case in his drive to lead the opposition to power for the first time in Malaysia.

He had previously said the sodomy case emerged to stop him from running for parliament in a by-election, a necessary first step toward becoming premier.

The three-party opposition alliance made historic gains in a March 8 election, winning five of 13 state governments and coming within 30 seats of taking control of the 222-member parliament.

Anwar has said he plans to file a legal deposition stating that his accuser had close ties with Najib and his staff. So far, police have not questioned Anwar about the accusation of sodomy, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. (Reporting by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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