June 21, 2018 / 9:01 AM / a year ago

Malaysia reopens probe into Mongolian model murdered by Najib's former bodyguards

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia will reopen an investigation into the murder of a Mongolian model in 2006, media reported on Thursday quoting the country’s police chief, in a case that could spell more trouble for former premier Najib Razak.

Two former police officers, who were serving as members of Najib’s personal security detail at the time of the murder, were sentenced to death for the crime.

Najib, who was defeated in an election last month after nearly a decade in power, has denied knowing the woman, but the question of who ordered the killing has never been answered.

“I can confirm we are reopening investigations,” Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said, adding that a new police report submitted by the model’s father on Wednesday was one reason for the fresh probe into the murder case.

Altantuya Shaariibuu, 28, was killed and blown up with military grade explosives in a forest near Kuala Lumpur.

Her father Setev Shaariibuu on Wednesday met with Malaysia’s new attorney-general Tommy Thomas and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who defeated the scandal-tainted Najib in a stunning election upset last month.

Civil society groups have alleged Altantuya’s murder was linked to her role as an interpreter for Abdul Razak Baginda, a former associate of Najib, in Malaysia’s purchase of two Scorpene-class submarines from French shipbuilding giant DCNS in 2002.

Abdul Razak, who said he had had an affair with Altantuya, was charged with abetment in her murder. He was acquitted in 2008.

One of the officers found guilty of her murder, Sirul Azhar Uma, fled to Australia shortly before his sentence was handed down. Sirul said last month he would cooperate with any new investigation into the murder if he was given a full pardon.

Malaysia is considering revoking his death sentence to facilitate his extradition.

Asked for comment on the new developments on Thursday, a spokesman for Australia’s Attorney-General said it does not comment on extradition requests.

Asked about the Altantuya case in an interview with Reuters this week, Najib said: “I’m on record to have sworn in a mosque in the name of Allah that I had nothing to do with the case.

“I still maintain that I only knew she died 4-5 days after the death...that was the first time I heard about her. There is no evidence to show I ever knew her.”

Mahathir is seeking to lay multiple charges against Najib for his alleged role in looting billions from state-run fund 1MDB and blames him for widespread corruption in the previous government. Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Praveen Menon and John Geddie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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