Jul 3, 2008

DPM Najib denies affair with murdered Mongolian

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak read out a statement at a press conference in Parliament, saying that the statutory declaration by P. Balasubramaniam was a "red herring" by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to divert public attention from the sodomy allegation against him.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's deputy premier Najib Razak on Thursday denied having an affair with a Mongolian woman brutally murdered in 2006, after a private investigator linked him with the case.

But in a surprise twist to another of the political scandals gripping Malaysia, he admitted meeting with a young man who has accused opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sexual assault.

Najib has repeatedly denied suggestions he was involved with the slaying of 28-year-old Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, after his close associate Abdul Razak Baginda was charged with abetting the murder.

"I want to reiterate that I have not met or known the Mongolian woman mentioned," he said in response to new allegations made in a sworn statement by an investigator who had worked for Abdul Razak.

He said he "absolutely" did not have a sexual relationship with her and that the claims were "a terrible lie, a malicious fabrication, defamatory, which is designed to tarnish my image."

"It is a desperate attempt by Anwar Ibrahim to divert the attention of the people from the sodomy allegation that he is facing," he told a news conference.

Anwar, who was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998 and jailed on sodomy and corruption charges that he said were politically motivated, has said he is on track to seize power after landmark March elections.

He has said that new allegations of sodomy, levelled on the weekend by a 23-year-old aide, were orchestrated by the government to sideline him after the opposition won unprecedented gains in the polls.

Anwar said Thursday that leading figures in the government had targeted him with the sex scandal because they feared he could use information on the Altantuya case to bring about their downfall.

Najib, whom Anwar has accused of helping orchestrate the new sodomy accusations, admitted he had met with the 23-year-old accuser before he filed a police report on the alleged assault.

"He came to see me, complaining that he was sodomised by Anwar Ibrahim. I wasn't even sure if it was true or not," he said.

"I suppose he needed help, and he knew one of my officers. That's all. He looked like he was in fear."

The admission will boost Anwar's claims, but Najib insisted there was "no conspiracy" and that he was "very relaxed" about the case.

Private investigator Balasubramaniam Perumal said in the sworn statement that in the days before Altantuya's death he learned of her relationship with the deputy premier and informed police when he was taken in for questioning.

However, he said those details were omitted from a police report he was asked to sign, and neither were they mentioned when he appeared as a witness in the ongoing murder trial.

Balasubramanian said that Abdul Razak had told him the deputy prime minister "had a sexual relationship" with Altantuya and that the trio had dined together in Paris.

The murder of Altantuya, whose body was blown up with explosives in a remote forest, has gripped Malaysia which has been in turmoil since March polls that dealt the ruling coalition its worst setback in its half-century history.

A prominent blogger has been slapped with sedition charges for publishing allegations linking Najib to the case. His wife Rosmah Mansor has also been forced to deny any involvement in the murder.

Balasubramanian made the allegations at a news conference organised by Anwar, who called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the case.

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