The Malaysian police have confiscated a haul of luxury bags, jewellery and cash after raiding Kuala Lumpur properties linked to Najib Razak, the former prime minister who was ousted in a shock election result last week.
Police confirmed they had carted off 284 boxes of items as part of a probe into a multi-billion dollar graft scandal at a state-owned investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was founded by Mr Najib. The value of the goods has not yet been calculated.
According to the Straits Times, many of the crates were labelled with pictures of designer Birkin bags. On Saturday, political activists had filed a police report claiming they had video evidence of an alleged attempt to “hide” at least 50 Birkin bags that were being transported in a government van.
Rosmah Mansor, Mr Najib’s wife, is known for her reported penchant for expensive luxury handbags, which has prompted unflattering comparisons with former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, whose extravagant and opulent lifestyle was defined by her vast shoe collection.
Once labelled the “Imelda Marcos of Malaysia” by Hollywood Reporter, Rosmah Mansor’s own stockpile of bags is reportedly worth millions. In 2015, she was forced to deny reports she had bought a $200,000 crocodile Birkin design.
Mr Najib and his wife are currently barred from leaving the country after an investigation was launched into the 1MDB scandal by the new government of Mahathir Mohamad, his former mentor turned nemesis, who trounced him at the polls last week.
The fund is being investigated by the authorities of at least six countries, including the US justice department, which alleges that billions were laundered through layers of foreign bank accounts to finance Hollywood films and luxury goods including a yacht.
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About $700 million from the funds allegedly flowed into the accounts of “Malaysian Official 1”, identified by US and Malaysian officials as Mr Najib. Prosecutors claim $27.3m was used to buy a 22-carat pink diamond necklace for his wife.
The former Prime Minister has denied any wrongdoing and said the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family, which he has since returned.
Amar Singh, the head of the federal commercial crime investigation unit, said on Friday the search and seizures in this week’s raids were part of the probe into 1MDB and not any particular individual, reported the Malaysian Star.
It has been a tumultuous week politically and personally for Mr Najib, who did not expect to lose the election.
In a dramatic turn of events in Malaysian politics, it is Mr Anwar who is now expected to become prime minister, succeeding newly elected leader Mahathir Mohamad in one or two years’ time, while Mr Najib stands at risk of taking his place in prison.
In an interview with AFP, Mr Anwar said he expected the ex-premier to be imprisoned over the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal.
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Mr Najib, he said, now faces an “arduous” legal battle, without the protection of high office. “He will certainly be charged,” he argued.
Mr Anwar declined to comment on how he thought Najib’s case would play out, as it depended on “how he can defend himself in court.” But he added: “It will be very difficult for him to escape (going to) prison.”
After his release on Wednesday, and a pardon for charges he always maintained were politically motivated, Mr Anwar said he would be seeking to contest a by-election to return to politics soon.
Dr Mahathir, 92, who emerged from retirement to battle Mr Najib, his former protégé, in the election, has pledged to hand over to Mr Anwar within two years.