Months before Kim Jong Nam was assassinated at a Kuala Lumpur airport last year, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s dictator feared for his own life, a lead investigator testified on Tuesday.
Kim told a friend in Malaysia about his fear, chief police investigator Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz said under cross examination.
“Six months before the incident, Kim Jong Nam had said I am scared for my life and I need a driver,” Wan Azirul said. He identified the friend as Tomie Yoshio, a Japanese citizen who provided Kim with his personal driver, Ahmad Fuad Ramli.
“Fuad was tasked with picking up Kim Chol when he arrived at KLIA2 [Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2] and sending him to Grand Millennium hotel in Kuala Lumpur, to go out dining as well as to drive him wherever he wanted to go,” Wan Azirul told the court as defense lawyer Gooi Soon Seng cross-examined him. The investigator was referring to Kim Jong Nam by another name listed in his North Korean passport.
Gooi represents Siti Aisyah of Indonesia, who along with co-defendant Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, are standing trial at the Shah Alam High Court near Kuala Lumpur over allegations that they smeared VX nerve agent on Kim’s face on Feb. 13, 2017, at KLIA2. Both women face the death penalty if convicted.
The court heard that Kim stayed at a hotel in central Kuala Lumpur’s shopping district from Feb. 6 to 8 before traveling to the Malaysian island of Langkawi, where he stayed until Feb. 12.
Last May, Japanese news agency Asahi Shimbun reported that Kim had met with an alleged U.S. intelligence agent of Korean-American descent in Langkawi days before his death.
In court, Gooi presented a photo that appeared to show the alleged agent, who apparently arrived at Langkawi on the same day and stayed at the same hotel, with Kim in an elevator.
Speaking to BenarNews after the trial broke for the day, Gooi said digital forensic evidence showed that information had been extracted from Kim’s computer into a USB drive.
“Normally when a pen drive is used, it means a large volume of data is collected and that occurred when [the alleged intelligence officer] met Kim at the Westin Hotel,” he said.
Gooi said the data was given in exchange for U.S. $138,000 (541,000 ringgit) that Kim was carrying when he was killed.
During Tuesday’s testimony, Wan Azirul said he did not investigate the source of the money and denied it had anything to do with the murder. Unlike Kim’s personal belonging, which were given to the North Korean government along with his body in March 2017, Malaysian authorities did not hand over the money.
Four North Koreans who are considered suspects in the case and were at the airport when the estranged half-brother of dictator Kim Jong Un was killed fled Kuala Lumpur that day.
Responding to questions from Gooi, Wan Azirul said he never went to Siti’s room in a hotel when she was arrested or after. Gooi highlighted discrepancies in testimony from the arresting officer, police superintendent Nasri Mansor, and Wan Azirul.
“You said you were never in Room 356 during the arrest so you have no knowledge of how Superintendent Nasri conducted the arrest?” Gooi said.
Wan Azirul agreed he did not have knowledge of how Nasri collected and kept the evidence before handing it over to him. Gooi asked the question after the investigator testified about receiving evidence, contradicting Nasri’s earlier testimony.
Wan Azirul also revealed that despite being chief investigator for the case, he personally interviewed only two witnesses while other officers interviewed the others.
Doan’s attorney are scheduled to cross examine Wan Azirul after Gooi finishes.