Murdered Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu's family want justice in Malaysia lawsuit

Shaariibuu Setev (centre), father of murdered Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, arriving at the Shah Alam High Court, Putrajaya, on Jan 22, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SHAH ALAM (AFP) - The family of a Mongolian woman whose killing was allegedly linked to Malaysia's toppled leader are hoping for justice in a civil lawsuit that started this week, their lawyers said on Friday (Jan 25).

Altantuya Shaariibuu was shot dead and her body blown up with military-grade plastic explosives near Kuala Lumpur in 2006.

Her death is said to be part of a scandal involving claims an associate of ousted prime minister Najib Razak arranged huge kickbacks for the purchase of French submarines in 2002.

Allegations have long circulated that Najib - then deputy premier - and his wife Rosmah Mansor were involved in the killing. Both have denied the claims.

Two government bodyguards were convicted of the murder and sentenced to death, with one subsequently fleeing to Australia. Altantuya's lover Abdul Razak Baginda, a close aide to Najib, was also tried but acquitted of abetting the crime.

In 2007, Altantuya's family, led by her father Shaariibuu Setev, filed a RM100 million (S$33 million) lawsuit against the government, the bodyguards and Abdul Razak.

The case was delayed until the criminal trial wrapped up, but finally got under way this week.

"(We) will do everything that we can to uncover the mystery as to who ordered her murder," Ramkarpal Singh, a lawyer for the family, told AFP.

"Mr Shaariibuu and his team are confident that justice will prevail."

Beginning his testimony in the case on Friday, Altantuya's father said: "She told me she was in a relationship with a big man in Malaysia and his name was Baginda."

He will continue testifying at the High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, on Monday.

Malaysian authorities reopened the investigation into Altantuya's murder last year, months after Najib was ousted in a shock election that saw his former boss Mahathir Mohamad return to power.

In a potentially major breakthrough, the bodyguard who fled to Australia, Sirul Azhar Umar, has said he is willing to assist any new government investigation into the case.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.