Woman demands 500,000 dollars from killer before her own murder

A Mongolian woman publicly cursed a prominent Malaysian accused of abetting her murder, and demanded US$500,000 (euro327,000) from him two days before she was blown up with explosives, a private detective testified Tuesday.

In the dock is Abdul Razak Baginda, a well-known political analyst who prosecutors say conspired with two policemen last October to kill Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28-year-old freelance translator and interpreter with whom he had an eight-month extramarital affair.

The prosecution contends that Abdul Razak had the police kill her because she was pestering him for money after he ended the affair. Abdul Razak, 47, is charged with abetting her murder. The officers are charged with murder. All three face the death penalty if convicted.

Abdul Razak is close to the governing party as well as to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak. The trial, which opened Monday, was front-page news in all local newspapers Tuesday, a reflection of the high public interest in the case. It has raised questions about political involvement and the possibility of lurid and sensational details becoming public.

Najib, the second-most powerful man in the government, has denied allegations that he knows more about the murder, and the scandal has not overtly tainted the administration or threatened its position.

On Tuesday, P. Balasubramaniam, a private investigator hired by Abdul Razak, testified that he was hastily summoned by his client on Oct. 17, 2006 to remove the woman making a scene outside his home.

Balasubramaniam, the prosecution's first witness, said that when he reached the house he saw Shaariibuu "creating a commotion" on the street. "She was shouting 'Razak bastard you come out. I want to speak to you.' She was very angry," he said.

He said shortly afterward police arrived and took her to a police station where she was released without charge. Balasubramaniam said he talked to her outside the police station about her grievances.

She "demanded US$500,000 and three air tickets to Mongolia," he said.

The prosecution told the court on Monday that Abdul Razak conspired with Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Constable Sirul Azhar Umar to have her killed on Oct. 19, 2006 using explosives. Only fragments of her body were found in a forest clearing near Shah Alam, the capital of Selangor state.

Balasubramaniam said he urged Abdul Razak to file a police complaint after the Oct. 17 incident but Abdul Razak refused.

"He said he will contact some senior police officials that he knows to take the appropriate action," said Balasubramaniam. He said Abdul Razak told him that he had given Shaariibuu "a lot of money but she still kept asking for more."

"He instructed me to keep this woman away from him," said Balasubramaniam.

Balasubramaniam said Shaariibuu returned to Abdul Razak's home Oct. 19, and Abdul Razak told him to keep her occupied until police arrived to detain her. Three people whom Balasubramaniam assumed were police officials later came in a car, and Shaariibuu went with them on her own accord, Balasubramaniam said.

Abdul Razak has acknowledged in a sworn statement to having an eight-month extramarital affair with Shaariibuu from late 2004.