SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian police have arrested a Malaysian police officer convicted of killing and blowing up a Mongolian model linked with a former associate of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, media reported on Wednesday.
Two police officers, part of Najib’s personal security detail at the time of the 2006 murder of 28-year-old Altantuya Shaariibuu, were found guilty in 2009 but were acquitted in 2013.
That acquittal was overturned by Malaysia’s Federal Court this month, reviving public outrage over the model’s grisly death.
Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar was taken into custody by immigration officials in Brisbane earlier this week, The Star newspaper quoted Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar as saying.
Sirul did not show up to hear the verdict, at which point the court issued an arrest warrant. He faces the death penalty in Malaysia.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Sirul had arrived in Australia in October.
“The department detained an unlawful non-citizen yesterday in Brisbane,” a spokeswoman for Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection Services told Reuters on Wednesday.
“The department is aware of the Malaysian authorities’ interest in this individual, however due to privacy reasons cannot comment further.”
Australia does not have the death penalty, nor does it extradite people to countries in which they may face execution for their crimes, a point which may have factored into Sirul’s choice of Australia as a destination.
The Australian Attorney General’s Department does not comment publicly on extradition matters, and would not confirm whether it had received a request for extradition in line with longstanding practice.
“Australia’s extradition legislation does not allow a person to be surrendered to another country for an offence punishable by death unless the country has given Australia an undertaking that the death penalty will not be carried out on the person,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.
Civil society groups have alleged Shaariibuu’s murder was linked to her role as an interpreter and associate of Razak Baginda, a former associate of Najib, in Malaysia’s purchase of two Scorpene-class submarines from French shipbuilding giant DCNS in 2002.
Najib had previously denied allegations of links to Shaariibuu or corruption in the purchase.