THE ALTANTUYA MYSTERY
OMINOUS WARNINGS FROM A MISSING FRENCH AGENT
A fortnight before she disappeared (presumed murdered) Altantuya is understood to have received a call from French born Miami based arms trafficker Jean Bernard Lasnaud warning her to keep her head low. Nothing odd about that one might think.
Altantuya is further understood to have communicated information about that call to her ‘sister’ and possibly to the late self proclaimed Private Investigator Balasubramaniam (Bala PI).
Balasubramaniam corroborated that information about the Lasnaud Altantuya telephone conversation in a telephone interview with a Malaysian journalist in September of 2012.
Jean Bernard Lasnaud was reported to be furious with Altantuya about something. Lasnaud who is widely believed to have been on the payroll of the French foreign intelligence service had a number of other irons in the fire and did not want Altantuya in her new life in Malaysia jeopardising his many opportunities in the trade with her loose talk about the French Malaysian submarine deal.
VANISHING AGENTS- A FRENCH SPECIALITY
Now herein lies the mystery of Altantuya and Jean Bernard Lasnaud. Like Altantuya Jean Bernard Lasnaud had ‘disappeared’ according to the US government in 2002. No one has been able to locate Lasnaud since his disappearance from his Miami apartment office nor has anyone bothered to search for him. He is said by the French to have died in 2002.
The FBI and Interpol both of whom had a vested interest in the safety and whereabouts of Lasnaud albeit for different reasons failed to follow up on his disappearance or appear keen to comment on it. Yet his name along with that of other arms dealers who have long ‘disappeared’ continue to surface whenever a good arms deal opportunity is to be had.
Two of Jean Bernard Lasnaud’s field agents (in a similar role to that played by Altantuya) were mysteriously murdered for opening their mouths like Altantuya did. One of them an agent very much like Altantuya who went by the name of Estrada who had engineered a controversial deal with Bolivia was found murdered in mysterious circumstances with a bullet to the head in a flat in Buenos Aires.
His death was ruled a suicide. It was not his gun. No suicide note nor any evidence of a failed deal. But such is the end for people involved in the world of arms trafficking.
Altantuya had been in contact with two pro Pakatan journalists in Malaysia to whom she made several claims and disclosures about alleged government corruption in the arms deals in which Razak Baginda was supposedly the intermediary. An employee of the online portal Malaysia Kini is known to be one of them.
Her relationship with the Malaysian Bar a key driver of the allegation that Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak ordered the murder of Altantuya went right up to the organizer of Bersih Ambiga Sreenivasan. Sreenivasan who has carefully kept a distance from any commentary on the story was betrayed by her former allies.
At least according to Bersih and Pakatan insiders and the blogging prince Raja Petra Kamaruddin Sreenivasan was always in the thick of it. She is believed to have fuelled and fanned the flames of the theory that Najib and his wife were behind the killing of Altantuya.
The mystery of the doctored photograph of Najib Razak with Altantuya was a scam engineered by a Malaysian Chinese blogger and member of parliament. Regardless the rumour mill is rife about its existence and authenticity. Malaysian bloggers belonging to the opposition continue to advance that theory fed by tall tales from the Malaysian Bar and the opposition.
PUBLIC OFFICIAL DISCLOSURE REGISTER
In Malaysia there are no requirements for parliamentarians, that includes the Prime Minister and all cabinet ministers and any public official to make disclosures about their private commercial interests or involvement in corporate and commercial affairs. Quite unlike many other countries especially in the west where such disclosures are mandatory to contain conflict of interest situations arising, Malaysia to this day does not have such a public official disclosure register. If it has one, disclosures are clearly not mandatory.
Most of the information Altantuya disclosed to her journalist contacts were paid for by two parties. One of these, the proprietor of a leading daily in Malaysia. The other, a businessman closely connected to the Malaysian opposition.
There was also a third party. She is the relative of a high profile well known politician. It is widely believed that it was this third person who encouraged French NGO involvement in investigating the Altantuya affair, the name by which this sordid affair has come to be known by.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION IN DENIAL BUT HOT ON HER HEELS
Altantuya had a rendezvous with an agent of the French arms dealer Jean Bernard Lasnaud who she was beholden to not long before she went missing. It is claimed Jean Lasnaud was becoming an embarrassment and an irritant to the French for his inability to control Altantuya. He had already been chastised by his controller and had an ugly example made of his agent Estrada to live with as a reminder of what is done to ‘lose ends’ in this business.
Although high on the wanted list of Interpol and interestingly protected by the US, Jean Bernard Lasnaud had made enemies with the Russians and other East European groups who controlled the black market for used Soviet era arms and military hardware.
Lasnaud had large unpaid bills with the Ukrainians and Russian black marketeers and is believed to have run Altantuya in Malaysia as an agent interloper. She was the honey pot into which Abdul Razak Baginda unwittingly fell.
Lasnaud is credited with having supplied the Sri Lankan army with Ukrainian built armoured vehicles, equipped their mechanized infantry divisions and kept them supplied with large quantities of grenades, mortars, ammunition of all sorts, land mines and field guns. Almost all of it scavenged from the inventories of the former socialist governments of central Asia, Bulgaria, Angola, Mozambique and others (of the Chinese variety) from warehouses in Myanmar.
What is perhaps conveniently left out of the outrage and the spin on the death of Altantuya is the fact she was very deep into the role of a double agent mole of a notorious international arms dealer. She had been jettisoned by Abdul Razak Baginda after a tip off he received about her activities from a French insider at the Ministry of Defence France (Ministère de la Défense).
ALTANTUYA WAS ON EVERYONE’S RADAR AND CROSS HAIRS
Both Michelle Aliot Marie and Herve Morin were in the know of the Malaysian submarine deal and were kept closely informed of the interloper Altantuya and her movements in the midst of the Malaysian submarine deal.
Both Marie and Morin have denied any knowledge of the woman or of any operation to “get her out of the picture”.
Altantuya was likely to torpedo (pardon the pun) the submarine deal. Altantuya appeared to enjoy high level security clearance being associated with Abdul Razak Baginda and never failed to flaunt her new status to anyone willing to listen to her. The opposition in Malaysia got wind of it with the two journalists and went to work on her.
The French had become increasingly nervous about this woman shadowing Abdul Razak Baginda on the one hand whilst enjoying his protection and a very intimate relationship with him giving her first hand access to information on the deals on the other. And the French had every reason to be nervous about her.
At the same time as the French who like most other major arms manufacturers were keeping a very close watch over the woman they called Altantuya, the Russians, the British and the Americans were also keeping an eye on Altantuya and had her followed. The reason for this was simple:
DUMMY CORPORATIONS, OFFSHORE HAVENS AND ARMS DEALS
Most arms deals are conducted through intermediaries. Middle men or middle men companies stuck out in far flung high secrecy jurisdictions with nominee directors and fictitious names. In most democratic societies arms expenditure goes through parliament. Enemy states have little difficulty obtaining information from parliamentary gazettes in these countries. And in doing so they are able to not only estimate defence expenditure but also assess the strengths of a country’s defences, its preparedness and the state of its weaponry.
The French and Israelis purchase and sell military equipment through a host of dummy corporations. The Chinese buy, sell and ship their military equipment to client states disguised and labelled as farm machinery using dummy corporations. The Germans and the British apply the same method (Lowell Bergman “Black Money” PBS). The Americans through third country end users not connected with the sale (Col. Oliver North, admiral Pointdexter and the Iran Contra Arms affair).
What was different in the Malaysian deal is that Altantuya had come too close to a business and a deal she had no right being involved in. “Lose lips sink ships”. And literally as far as the French are concerned (the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour 1987) lose lips do sink ships as happened with the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour in 1987.
THE BEATING OF CHINESE WAR DRUMS
What the French in particular did not want leaked was the highly sensitive details of the submarines being sold to the Malaysians. Contrary to the distorted public perception generated by Malaysia’s opposition these submarines were not simply re furbished vessels.
These were customized retrofitted vessels with non standard customized navigational and fire control equipment on board. These are subs designed to be effective in the Straits of Malacca and in the South China Sea two flash points in which Europe, the Americans, the Russians and the UK all have a keen interest in keeping open to international navigation. China has demonstrated to the world it has other ideas for these water-ways. Patrolling and keeping open these waterways requires specialized equipment.
China’s blue water navy had begun to flex their muscles long before the Malaysian submarines deal. The Chinese are known to have long infiltrated the French intelligence service even before Shei Pei Pu the Chinese opera singer had infiltrated the pants of a French diplomat convincing him he was a woman.
Ira Winkler, a former National Security Intelligence Agency staff and a security consultant, said that “Chinese intelligence operatives work by approaching ethnic Chinese by reminding them of Chinese heritage, telling them they must help“. That line has always applied to Malaysia’s and all of south east Asia’s Chinese communities whose loyalty to the mainland have and continue to be their motivation when it comes to supporting Chinese interests and designs in the region.
LOSE LIPS DARK DEEP SECRETS
Altantuya had been passing on classified information to third parties long before she broke off with Abdul Razak Baginda. Anwar Ibrahim is known to have personally ordered his information gatherers to keep tabs on her. Much of the distortions of what occurred is by all accounts the work of Anwar Ibrahim in much the same way he set up Lingham using a friend and client of the man to obtain that video he called “Video Korupsi”.
What Anwar did not know was that this trail of his to Altantuya would not go cold for a long time after he initiated it. It would in fact come to bite him in the proverbials long after her demise.The French had expressed their displeasure to Abdul Razak Baginda on more than one occasion over Altantuya’s apparent intimate knowledge of the deal.
ALTANTUYA THE FOCUS OF LEAKS- THE FRENCH WERE NOT AMUSED
A Russian arms agent then living in London joked to his French counter part that parts of a French submarine had come lose in Malaysia and it was widely believed that the sub had “Mongolian made parts” ( a crude reference to Altantuya) housed in it.
The French were not amused. At this point there was no alternative but to channel all dealings through a series of dummy corporations in flags of convenience. It was at the insistence of the French who could have and would have scuttled the deal keeping more than half the payments in their pocket if it did not go through. The breach was not theirs as they saw it.
Altantuya was also known to have been speaking to a Malaysian lawyer after she had been accosted by an “investigative journalist” in Kuala Lumpur. The journalist who Altantuya referred to as the “Zhaba” or toad in Russian was constantly trying to impress her with his ‘skills’ as an investigative journalist. He was ‘hitting’ on her.
The Zhaba asked her to meet him in London where he ‘guaranteed’ her safety if she would speak with him on a number of issues he considered of ‘national importance’. She ignored him. He persisted showing her samples of his handiwork in a local street daily uncovering ‘crooked deals’. She finally found his achilles heel in a woman he was seeing on the side.
Altantuya was never subtle about what she knew and who she slept with. It was after all her trade. She went to the highest bidder and it appears that discretion was not a strong point with Abdul Razak Baginda. However the question of how much of what Altantuya told anyone willing to listen to her was true and how much of it was fiction spun by a spurned lover is any ones guess.
What is widely known is that Altantuya met her fate unbeknownst to Abdul Razak Baginda or the Prime Minister as many speculate would have known or even ordered her death.
The spectacular descriptions surrounding her final moments are contradictory and defy logic if indeed someone so high up wanted a professional job done on the woman. No one knows for sure how Altantuya died. The trial of the two police special operatives ensured not much of the detail of her death surfaced. The two accused “confessed” to killing Altantuya Sharibu thereby obviating the need for a trial of the ‘facts’ and evidence.
THE C 4 MYTH TESTED
A former head of the Carlisle Group of arms traffickers and money launders, a man credited with taking out then disposing of the remains of Patrice Lumumba, former president of the republic of Congo, described to a reporter a highly effective means he had used to get rid of victims like the Altantuya’s of this world.
His team would simply shoot or strangle the victim and place the corpse in a vat of sulphuric acid getting rid of any incriminating evidence.
There are other means available and known to even the commonest of thugs around the world on how to cleanly dispose of corpses and any incriminating evidence after the fact. So why would a bunch of “highly trained” police officers use C4 explosives instead of these tried and tested methods of disposing of a corpse?
C4 is the generic name for a plastic explosive with military applications. It can be manufactured by any competent first year science student anywhere. So too can other plastic explosives be made by any amateur using saw dust, hydrochloric acid, battery acid, brake fluid and peanut butter kneaded together. Each of these components in the right mixture, proportions and conditions can be moulded into lethal plastic explosives capable of causing damage, injury and death like C4 can.
There was no special clearance required by anyone from anyone other than a quartermaster at stores in the army for C4 to be obtained. A trip across the causeway would be sufficient to obtain black market C4 or RDX from Singapore’s Charter Industries. And their history of supply into the black market is legend.
C4 is not Semtex, the legendary Czech made odourless, undetectable and highly potent plastic explosive. It was the plastic of choice for the Palestinians and IRA who used it with such devastating effect against their enemies in the field. Now that brand of explosive would have required special clearance if it were indeed in the inventories of the Malaysian armed forces. But certainly not C4.
C4 is RDX (cyclonite or cyclotrimethylene trinitramine), which makes up around 91% of C4 by mass. The plasticizer is diethylhexyl (5.3%) or dioctyl sebacate and the binder is usually polyisobutylene (2.1%).
C4 or RDX gained international notoriety as being the explosive ingredient purchased from Singapore’s Charter Industries by the Tamil Tigers in 1992 to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi former prime minister of India.
THE EFFECT OF C4 ON THE HUMAN MASS
Interestingly the amount of RDX used against Rajiv Gandhi was significantly larger in quantity than that supposedly used on Altantuya. Yet it was only Rajiv’s head that suffered damage from the detonation of the C4 used at close range on him. His assassin was blown into 3 parts not bone fragments.
Blowing up Altantuya (if it were the case) using C4 would have required a substantial amount judging from the condition of her remains. It would have been a bang which could not have gone unnoticed for miles around. Blowing someone to ‘bone fragments’ requires more than the amount of explosives used to destroy Altantuya’s corpse.
The Tamil Tiger bomber who killed Rajiv Gandhi was blown in three pieces as the C4 was strapped to her waist. There were of course other casualties for several meters around her from the shrapnel packed into the explosive device.
HOW MUCH C4 NEEDED TO REDUCE ALTANTUYA TO BONE FRAGMENTS
This now leaves the question of how much C4 could have been used to dispose of Altantuya if indeed the story of the use of C4 is true. Her corpse is said to have been reduced to mere bone fragments. Compare that to the state of Rajiv Gandhi’s and his assassins remains from C4 and one gets the picture.
Why would “highly trained” bodyguards from a special police unit use such a crude and amateurish method to carry out a clandestine covert operation in a largely built up area as Shah Alam is without attracting any attention?
Surely the explosion of a large quantity of C4 must have been heard from miles around if Altantuya’s remains were reduced to bone fragments. The smaller amount used to kill Rajiv Gandhi caused an explosion that reverberated and was heard up to 12 Kms away from the site of his assassination. That too over the din of a noisy city in south India.
A FOOTNOTE TO DANGER
What many of the commentators in places like Malaysia who have only recently discovered the very dark murky world of espionage and international arms deals must realise is that in the business of defence procurement there are no friends, no right, nor wrong. There are simply interests that need to be protected at all costs. And the Altantuya’s of this world are volunteers who become dispensable commodities in pursuit of something larger and more sinister.
This week saw the demise of a multi billionaire Russian Oligarch Boris Berezovsky living under the protection of Britain’s MI5 and the watchful eye of the Mossad. Like Shapur Bakhtiar the former Iranian Prime Minister murdered whilst living in Exile under the protection of the French government, his death too reveals a more sinister and dangerous side to this business.
Ambiga, Anwar and their cohorts in the Malaysian Bar and its opposition political parties seeking the violent overthrow of democratic governments are known to have have received money from the likes of Berezovski in London channeled via more legitimate groups like “NGO’s”.
Berezovski funded the so called “Orange Revolution’ in the Ukraine which failed dismally leading to the arrest and long term imprisonment of their leaders including the short term Prime Minister at the helm of the revolution. It carried the same brand of fireworks and rhetoric of Ambiga and Bersih and their allies. They borrowed these from the Berezovski inspired and financed camps, from the other shadowy groups like civil societies, the NED and the Malaysian expatriate communities in the UK.
Berezovsky felt invincible like Shapur Bakhtia, the Ambigas and Altantuyas of this world. Each of them believed or believe they had powerful “friends” in high places and were likewise invincible and out of reach off domestic law. On the basis of this false premise each of them took liberties against the longer term interests of their handlers. In this case the French , the British, the Americans.
What each of them failed to take into account is that right throughout history, in such situations when the utility of each of these pawns had diminished all of them without exception found themselves unprotected without friends and in untenable situations leaving them to fend for themselves facing the most horrible ends.
Jean Marie Badeaux and David Mclaren