PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia will put in a formal request to Australia for the extradition of fugitive Sirul Azhar Umar, said Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
He said the request by the police would be made through Wisma Putra.
"We have a formal agreement (on extradition) with Australia so we will follow the process," he said.
Dr Ahmad Zahid was speaking to newsmen after receiving a courtesy call from the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel yesterday.
Sirul, 43, sentenced to death for the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, is in a Sydney detention centre after being arrested in Brisbane on Tuesday, said sources.
They said the former police commando has been at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre since Wednesday night.
The centre, which has been operating since 1976, is about 27km from Sydney's central business district.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said police would verify the information with their Australia counterparts.
On the extradition request, the IGP said Bukit Aman was still in discussions with the Attorney-General's Chambers.
Several Australian news reports have maintained that Canberra was unlikely to send Sirul back to Malaysia if he was going to be put to death upon his return.
The Courier Mail, a daily in Brisbane, reported that the issue had put Australia in "diplomatic hot water" and in a tricky position.
It quoted Don Rothwell, an international law professor from the Australian National University, as saying that Australia would likely keep Sirul.
He said the Extradition Act in Australia allowed the attorney-general to refuse extradition until appropriate assurances were given that the capital punishment would not be applied.
"Unless Malaysia is able to give Australia those assurances, under Australian law the extradition will not take place," he was quoted as saying by the daily.
Rothwell said the Act made it clear that extradition could be refused if the person has been sentenced to capital punishment or charged with an offence that could lead to the death penalty.
Sirul failed to appear in the Federal Court on Jan 13 when it sentenced him and former chief inspector Azilah Hadri, 38, to death for the October 2006 murder of the 28-year-old model. A warrant for his arrest was issued.
Sirul is believed to have entered Australia on a tourist visa and a valid passport but it was revoked by the Australian government after an Interpol Red Notice was issued against him.
A Red Notice means Interpol is assisting in the location and arrest of a wanted person with a view to extradition or similar lawful action.
Sirul's counsel Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin said he was trying to contact his client to find out the reason for his detention in Australia.
"We don't know what the next step is because it depends on why he was detained," Kamarul said.