Inside the lavish world of Malaysia’s Rosmah Mansor

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This Hermes Matte White Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin bag with gold and diamond hardware was valued at more than US$300,000 in 2016. (AFP)
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This file photo dated 11 May 2000 shows Malaysian Defence Minister Najib Razak (L) and his wife Rosmah Mansor in Kuala Lumpur. (AFP)
Updated 09 June 2018

Inside the lavish world of Malaysia’s Rosmah Mansor

  • Mansor defended her favorite pastime of shopping in her 2013 autobiography, saying: “I have bought some jewelry and dresses with my own money
  • Rosmah is a typical example of a woman going through a transition into a world she was not used to or exposed to — from a simple life to one of power and excess

KUALA LUMPUR: With her exquisite handbags, expensive spending habits and luxurious lifestyle, Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Malaysia’s then-Prime Minister Najib Razak, was living life writ large.

Fast forward to May 10, 2018, when Razak’s political grip crumbled after Malaysia’s elections, and the world had a glimpse inside the extravagant world of Malaysia’s own Imelda Marcos.

A few days after Razak and Mansor were barred from leaving the country, Malaysian police raided their homes and properties for evidence linking the pair to the 1MDB investigation. The police confirmed after the raid that they had “seized 284 boxes of handbags, 72 luggage bags, and tons of jewelry and cash.”

Like Imelda’s obsession for shoes, Mansor had an obsession with exquisite, branded bags.

“I feel it is a show of power and status,” said Karen Hoisington, a Singapore-based socialite and brand consultant. She is aware of the larger-than-life personality and lifestyle of Mansor.

“Rosmah has the means to get what she wants and her husband has certainly funded much of it,” she said.

It has long been rumored that Mansor was living beyond the means of her husband’s salary as a politician. A prime minister’s annual salary in Malaysia is less than $72,000.

On Tuesday, when Mansor was called to testify at the anti-graft agency in Kuala Lumpur, she came in style, toting a striking red handbag to go along with her blue and red traditional Malay assemble.

Netizens and fashionistas were quick to point out that the boxy, quilted red bag Mansor clutched bore a striking resemblance to the Versace’s Demetra Barocco-quilted Nappa leather handbag.

The Versace Demetra bag costs up to $2,765.

However, it is just one of the many expensive bags that Mansor is rumored to own, including her collection of Berkin bags.

According to Fortune magazine’s online site, a Birkin bag is considered a good investment because they “regularly sell on the secondary market for more than their original sale price.”

Hoisington told Arab News that “women like Rosmah feel a sense of entitlement. She must have sacrificed quite a lot to be a public person under scrutiny.”
She said that Mansor may feel she needs to be “rewarded” for helping firm up her husband’s success.

“I can’t guess what all her handbags will cost. That includes all the top designer brands, but I will make a guess that she would easily have spent around $5 million on bags alone,” said Hoisington

Mansor’s extravagant lifestyle sits uneasily with many in Malaysia.

In 2015, she received criticism over her complaints about a high-priced ‘$300 beehive hairdo’ after her husband imposed the GST in Malaysia. “But what about housewives like us, with no income?” she lamented.

In 2017, Malaysians discovered that Mansor had bought a 22-carat rare pink diamond necklace set. The jewelry cost $30 million, which the US Department of Justice said was funded from 1MDB.

Mansor defended her favorite pastime of shopping in her 2013 autobiography, saying: “I have bought some jewelry and dresses with my own money. What is wrong with that?”

At the same time, she would offer outlandish advice to Malaysians. In 2016, as head of the Association of Wives of the Ministers and Deputy Ministers, she told Malaysians to tighten their belts during Ramadan and avoid “overspending.”

In pursuit of power, Mansor’s bizarre lifestyle included a rumored penchant for black magic and plastic surgery. This was highlighted by her estranged daughter Azrene Ahmad in her lengthy Instagram post, where she described her mother’s spending on “shamans, witch doctors, aesthetic doctors and the like.”

In a website posting, Singapore-based plastic surgeon Dr. Siew Tuck Wah claimed that the ex-prime minister’s wife distorted face showed she had at least five surgeries.

Hoisington said that Mansor might be under pressure to maintain a public profile that befits her status. “Madam Rosmah must have been advised that this was what a prime minister’s wife should look like, wear and own,” she said.

“Rosmah is a typical example of a woman going through a transition into a world she was not used to or exposed to — from a simple life to one of power and excess. When women feel insecure with themselves, they seek means that they believe will make them more acceptable, loved and have a sense of belonging,” she said.

Kabul expects US to share peace deal details

Updated 22 min 9 sec ago

Kabul expects US to share peace deal details

  • Afghan government excluded from all rounds of talks
  • Washington is keen for the deal to be signed before Sept. 1

KABUL: Afghanistan said on Saturday it expects the US to share details of a peace deal with the Taliban before it is signed, having been excluded from all rounds of talks.

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has led diplomats through at least nine rounds of talks with members of the armed group in Qatar since last summer.

A deal could pave the way for a complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and end almost two decades of fighting in the country.

But President Ashraf Ghani’s government has been left out of the talks because of objections from the Taliban, which views his regime as a puppet of the West.

The current round of discussions has been described as crucial because, according to present and former Taliban officials, both parties are expected to soon sign a deal.

“The Afghan government expects that it (agreement) will be shared before it is finalized for signing,” Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, told Arab News.

He said Kabul could not say when the deal would be signed, and that troops’ departure would be condition-based and not based on a timeline set by the Taliban.

“Well, force reduction will be based on conditions, the terrorist threat is potential and we must fight it together for our common safety and in order to prevent any major terrorist attacks on the world’s capitals. 

“We must deny terrorists from holding free ground in Afghanistan and turning it into a safe haven. The presence of some forces, and continued and meaningful support to the Afghan security and defense forces, will be key to our success.”

The Taliban wants all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan within a set timetable and, in return, the group says it will not allow Afghan soil to be used against any foreign country or US interests.

Afghan and US officials have warned against a total pullout of troops because, they argue, the Taliban will try to regain power by force and the country will slide back into chaos after troops leave.

But some say a continued presence will prolong the conflict, as neighboring powers oppose the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and see it as a trigger for extremism.

The Taliban could not be reached immediately for comment about media reports, which cited the group’s former and current officials as saying that a deal with Washington was imminent.

“We have an agreement on a timeframe for the withdrawal,” Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s spokesman for the Qatar talks, told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. “Discussions are now focused on its implementation mechanism. We have had general discussions today,” he added, referring to current discussions in Doha. “Tomorrow, we shall have discussions on the implementation part.”

Another Taliban spokesman said the top US military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, had taken part in the current talks which, according to some observers, showed the importance of the discussions and the possibility of a final deal.

Washington is keen for the deal to be signed before Sept. 1, weeks ahead of a crucial and controversial presidential poll in Afghanistan. 

Ghani, who is standing for re-election, says the polls are his priority. Some politicians believe that peace will have to come first and that the vote will have to be delayed.

Abdul Satar Saadat, who served as an adviser to Ghani, said the Taliban and US were racing against time as any delay would damage trust between the two and prompt the Taliban to fight for another five years.

“Because of this both sides are doing their utmost to sign the deal, delay the polls and begin an intra-Afghan dialogue like Oslo,” he told Arab News.