Malaysia police seize hundreds of designer handbags from ex-PM

Property raid part of inquiry into Najib Razak’s role in major graft scandal

A police officer pushes a trolley during a raid of three apartments in a condominum owned by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s family, in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Photograph:   Ariffin Jamar/The Straits Times via Reuters

A police officer pushes a trolley during a raid of three apartments in a condominum owned by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s family, in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Photograph: Ariffin Jamar/The Straits Times via Reuters

 

Malaysian police have seized 284 boxes of designer handbags and 72 bags of cash, jewellery and watches from an apartment owned by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, as part of an investigation into his role in the 1MDB scandal.

The police began a search of his properties on Wednesday night and it was still ongoing on Friday morning. The raid on the properties in Kuala Lumpur’s Pavilion residences, where condominiums cost up to 30 million ringett (€7 million), produced the biggest haul yet, with police seen carting hundreds of orange boxes containing designer Hermes Birkin handbags into five police trucks.

Local media reported that police also emerged with a money counting machine.

Amar Singh, director of police commercial crime investigations, confirmed that a total of six properties had been searched so far. “The total sum worth of items cannot be ascertained now,” Mr Singh told reporters on early Friday morning. “We’ll be counting and will know by tomorrow.” He added: “The number of jewellery is rather big.”

The raid is part of a police investigation into Mr Najib’s role in the 1MDB scandal, in which billions of dollars of a government fund went missing and were embezzled around the world, funding yachts, Picasso paintings and Hollywood films.

Some $681 million of the fund was alleged to have been transferred directly into Mr Najib’s personal bank account, and the 1MDB money also allegedly funded a 22-carat pink diamond necklace, worth $27.3 million, for his wife Rosmah Mansor.

Mr Najib was cleared of all wrongdoing while he was in power, but the investigation is widely perceived to have been a farce, and some in his administration have since accused him of covering up the scandal.

Lavish lifestyles

The lavish lifestyles of Mr Najib and Ms Rosmah, who is notorious for her love of designer handbags and expensive jewellery, has long been a source of contention in Malaysia. The annual salary of the prime minister is only $70,000, whereas one Birkin handbag can cost up to $300,000.

It is also a stark contrast to the frugal lifestyle of the newly elected prime minister, 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, who was recently spotted going about his official duties in sandals costing $4.

Mr Najib’s large family home in an affluent neighbourhood of Kuala Lumpur was also part of the raid, with the road to his house cordoned off.

Locksmiths were summoned to the property in the morning to break open a safe, which had apparently not been opened for two decades because the family had lost the key.

In a statement on Thursday night, Mr Najib’s lawyer, Harpal Singh Grewal, criticised the search as “unwarranted hassment”, and added: “This harassment has now continued for almost 18 hours and nothing meaningful has come from the search and seizure of what would appear to be insignificant personal items.”

News of the raid on Ms Najib’s house became a nationwide talking point, with an endless stream of onlookers visiting the neighbourhood to see the cordon around their former prime minister’s property. – Guardian