KUALA LUMPUR - Sirul Azhar Umar, who is facing the gallows over the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, is now behind bars in Australia - and may languish in the country for a long while before he is brought back to Malaysia, if at all.
The former police commando was detained in Brisbane on Tuesday and is now being held at the immigration detention centre there.
He is likely to be detained indefinitely if Malaysia's extradition request is rejected in the end. It is learnt that the extradition process itself could take a while.
Sirul, 43, who was detained on Tuesday, is believed to have entered Australia on a tourist visa and a valid passport but it was revoked by the Australian Government following an Interpol Red Notice issued against him.
On Tuesday, a team of Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection raided a house in Brisbane and arrested Sirul.
The department's spokesperson confirmed that it had detained an "unlawful non-citizen" in Brisbane.
"The department is aware of the Malaysian authorities' interest in this individual. However, due to privacy reasons, we cannot comment further," the spokesperson said yesterday.
It is learnt that Sirul could be transported to an Immigration detention centre in Sydney soon.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar confirmed the arrest, adding: "We will contact our Australian counterparts for further details. Bukit Aman will be discussing with the Attorney-General's Chambers on how to proceed further."
A spokesman for Australia's Attorney-General's Department said the Australian government would not comment publicly on extradition matters.
"Extradition matters include whether the department has received an extradition request, until the person is arrested or brought before a court pursuant to a request.
"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," the spokesman said.
Sirul failed to appear in the Federal Court on Jan 13 when the court sentenced him and former chief inspector Azilah Hadri, 38, to death for the October 2006 murder of Altantuya, 26. The court then issued a warrant for Sirul's arrest.
Sirul went off the radar after entering Australia in October last year until the Interpol Red Notice was issued.
His counsel is trying to contact him and understand the legal basis behind his detention in Australia.
Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin said: "We don't know what the next step is because it depends on why he was detained."