Malaysian police seize designer bags, jewellery and cash in raids on ex-PM

Hundreds of boxes of valuables taken as part of investigation of Najib Razak over corruption at 1MDB state fund

Police load confiscated items into a truck in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Friday, May 18, 2018. Malaysian police confiscated a few hundred designer handbags and dozens of suitcases containing cash, jewelry and other valuables as part of a corruption and money-laundering investigation into former Prime Minister Najib Razak. (AP Photo)
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Malaysian police seized 284 boxes of designer handbags and dozens of bags filled with cash and jewellery on Friday from a luxury condominium in the centre of Kuala Lumpur linked to former prime minister Najib Razak.

Police have been searching Mr Najib's home and other places linked to him as part of an investigation into the scandal-plagued state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), an extraordinary turn of events that few would have predicted before a May 9 general election that he was expected to win.

Items such as Birkin handbags from Hermes, jewellery, watches and other valuables were carted out of the condominium at the upmarket Pavilion Residences, in the pre-dawn hours, police said.

"Exactly how much jewellery, I would not be able to say, because we know that we confiscated bags containing jewellery and the number of jewellery is rather big," Amar Singh, director of police commercial crime investigations, told reporters at the scene.


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Shortly after Mr Najib and his long-ruling political coalition were defeated in the polls, new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad barred him and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, from leaving the country.

Mr Mahathir, 92, who was once Mr Najib's mentor, says there is sufficient evidence to investigate the multibillion-dollar scandal at the 1MDB fund that Mr Najib founded.

Authorities in six countries, including the United States, are investigating the fund.

Mr Najib denies any wrongdoing. His lawyer on Thursday denounced the long search of Mr Najib's home as "harassment".

Critics of the former prime minister have often accused his wife of lavish spending, which they say was done with public funds.

Ms Rosmah's alleged excesses included designer handbags, watches and jewellery, which she bought while travelling around the world, have been widely reported, although she has never spoken about it herself.

The US Justice Department said last year in a filing in a civil lawsuit that nearly $30 million (Dh110m) of funds stolen from 1MDB was used to buy jewellery for Mr Najib's wife, including a rare 22-carat pink diamond set in a necklace.

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak (C) and former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (2nd L) are greeted by supporters after Friday prayers at the Barisan Nasional party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on May 18, 2018.  Just last week, 64-year-old Najib was widely expected to lead his powerful Barisan Nasional (National Front) political machine to victory, extending a more than six-decade reign that had made it one of the world's longest-serving governments. But his coalition -- accused of ballot-box stuffing and gerrymandering -- was unexpectedly trounced by a diverse alliance that rallied public support against Najib's suspected corruption and increasingly repressive tactics. / AFP / Mohd RASFAN
Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak, centre, and former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, second left, are greeted by supporters after Friday prayers at the Barisan Nasional party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on May 18, 2018. Mohd Rasfan / AFP 

Mr Singh said police carried out simultaneous searches at six premises linked to Mr Najib, all in connection with their investigation into 1MDB.

The premises include the prime minister's office and official residence in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, the family mansion in Kuala Lumpur where Mr Najib lives, and three other private residences linked to him.

"This is the result of the search in one of the six premises," Mr Singh said, pointing to the hundreds of luxury items seized from the condominium.

Mr Singh said police had also seized documents linked to 1MDB.

Stories of lavish spending by Mr Najib's family have long been a sore point for Malaysians.

A prime minister earns a fixed salary of 22,826.65 ringgit (Dh21,100) a month and cannot invest in businesses or stocks while in office. Mr Najib earned an additional monthly salary of 16,000 ringgit as a member of parliament.

Police began their searches late on Wednesday, with officers seen entering Mr Najib's private home some 20 minutes after he had asked, in a post on Twitter, for "forgiveness for past sins", shortly after he had attended prayers on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan.