KUALA LUMPUR • Old allegations surrounding the 2006 murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu have returned to the fore after an attempt to push back the thickening swirl of scandal backfired against Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
First, an apology by Ms A. Santamil Selvi - the widow of private eye P. Balasubramaniam, who watched over Ms Altantuya just before she was killed - ended up revealing that Ms Selvi had been promised money to absolve Datuk Seri Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor.
Ms Selvi further told reporters on Saturday that she was apologising only for linking the couple to her husband's death. But she surprised reporters by saying she stood by her late husband's allegations that Mr Najib and his wife had been involved in the Mongolian's death.
Then it emerged yesterday that two Australian journalists who had pushed Ms Selvi to clarify her stance had been arrested in Sarawak for crossing a security line to question Mr Najib directly.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reporter Linton Besser and cameraman Louie Eroglu were yesterday prevented from leaving Malaysia - which could snowball into the diplomatic arena and raise fresh questions about the murder.
Ms Selvi's "apology" was organised by Datuk Ramesh Rao, a known activist for the ruling Barisan Nasional government. He said he was helping her raise money for her daughter's education after the opposition reneged on promises to fund the college fees.
This was to be the basis of Ms Selvi's apology - that she had gone along with implicating Mr Najib only because of the opposition's pledges. But she insisted at Saturday's news conference that Mr Balasubramaniam's sworn declaration that Mr Najib had been involved in Ms Altantuya's death was true.
Under intense questioning, she stormed out of the press conference, screaming that she was only doing what she had to for her child's education. Mr Ramesh also walked out after failing to address further queries.
Mr Najib has repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder, and two police commandos were eventually convicted of the crime.
According to ABC, their journalists were in Sarawak late on Saturday to gain Mr Najib's response to allegations of graft. The PM, who was there campaigning ahead of state elections, has denied any wrongdoing in the receipt of some US$700 million (S$960 million) in his personal accounts. Police said the arrests were made for security reasons as the men came too close to Mr Najib.