Ex-Malaysia PM Najib Razak says effort on to reclaim valuables seized by police

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Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak can be seen in this file photo. (Reuters)
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Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak can be seen in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 29 June 2018
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Ex-Malaysia PM Najib Razak says effort on to reclaim valuables seized by police

  • Malaysian police on Wednesday said items seized in the raids on various Najib-linked properties, including cash, jewellery and luxury handbags, are worth up to $273 million.
  • Police said the searches, part of investigations into scandal-hit sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, netted 12,000 pieces of jewellery, bags containing almost $30 million in cash across 26 different currencies, more than 400 watches worth $19.3 million, and othe

KUALA LUMPUR: Ousted Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said relatives and "third parties" have begun the legal process to reclaim valuables seized in police raids, insisting that most of the items were gifts.
Malaysian police on Wednesday said the items seized in the raids on various Najib-linked properties, including cash, jewellery and luxury handbags, are worth up to $273 million.
Police said the searches, part of investigations into scandal-hit sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, netted 12,000 pieces of jewellery, bags containing almost $30 million in cash across 26 different currencies, more than 400 watches worth $19.3 million, and other high-end designer goods.
Najib, whose Barisan Nasional coalition was ousted in elections last month, has been linked to the 1MDB scandal while his wife Rosmah Mansor has been widely criticised for her extravagant shopping sprees.
Allegations of corruption in connection with 1MDB were a major factor behind the shock election loss of Najib's long-ruling coalition to a reformist alliance headed by former leader Mahathir Mohamad, 92.
In a statement issued Thursday, Najib insisted that most of the items seized were gifts from friends and foreign dignitaries, including royalty, during special occasions like official visits and birthdays.
"Some of the items seized belong to relatives and various third parties. They have now started the legal process to claim their items from the police," Najib said.
He also disputed the quantity and the valuations on the items given by the police.
"Any valuation based on retail price and at current prices would be unrealistic, likely to be grossly inflated and will give a very distorted picture as these items were received as gifts over a period that spans decades," he said.
He said a Rolex Daytona watch which the police said was worth 3.4 million ringgit ($842,000) was a gift from a Middle Eastern prince who visited Malaysia in March.
The police did not respond to AFP's requests for comment but Inspector General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun was quoted in the Star newspaper on Friday as saying the valuations were made by industry experts.
"The estimation was not done based on our whims and fancies," he said.
Najib and his cronies have been accused of plundering billions of dollars from the government-controlled 1MDB fund to buy everything from US real estate to artworks.
Najib and 1MDB deny any wrongdoing.
Mahathir has reopened investigations into 1MDB which were shut down by Najib, and has vowed the former leader will be charged.
Since their election loss, Najib and his wife have been questioned by anti-graft investigators and are banned from leaving Malaysia.
The US Justice Department, which is seeking to recover items allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB cash in America, estimates that $4.5 billion was looted from the fund.


Thai boys rescued from cave mourn diver who died

Updated 15 July 2018
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Thai boys rescued from cave mourn diver who died

  • The health ministry said the overall condition for the players and coach was normal
  • Saman was widely hailed as a hero but the boys, aged 11 to 16, were only told about his death on Saturday

CHIANG RAI, Thailand: The 12 boys and their coach rescued from a Thai cave mourned the death of an ex-Navy SEAL who died while taking part in the mission, the health ministry said Sunday.
The “Wild Boars” football team are recovering in hospital following 18 days spent inside the Tham Luang cave after entering on June 23 and getting trapped by monsoon floodwaters.
Doctors say they are in good health following a successful three-day operation which ended July 10 when teams of Thai Navy SEALs and international cave diving experts hauled the last five members of the team to safety.
But the lead-up to the final phase of the mission was met with tragedy when volunteer and former Navy SEAL diver Saman Kunan died on July 6 while installing oxygen tanks along the twisting passageways of the cave.
Saman was widely hailed as a hero but the boys, aged 11 to 16, were only told about his death on Saturday after a medical team said they were strong enough mentally to handle the news, though many wept after hearing it.
“All cried and expressed their condolences by writing messages on a drawing of Lt. Commander Saman and observed one minute of silence for him,” Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent secretary at the health ministry, said in the statement.
Photos released show the youngsters crowded around a sketch of Saman scrawling messages on it and bowing their heads in commemoration.
“They also thanked him and promised to be good boys,” the statement said.
Tributes from Thailand and around the world have poured in for Saman, a triathlete and diver who retired from the military in 2006 and worked at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport before volunteering to help with the rescue in northern Thailand.
Specialists who took part in the risky mission to bring the Wild Boars home have expressed shock and surprise that they were able to pull it off, with some fearing that there could have been more casualties.
The unprecedented and daring final push to bring the boys out saw them sedated and carried through waterlogged and partially dry corridors with the help of military stretchers and nearly 100 divers.
Health officials have conveyed a largely positive picture of the boys’ recovery. All are expected to leave hospital on Thursday.
The health ministry said the overall condition for the players and coach was normal, though many are still on a course of antibiotics.
Despite the positive assessments so far experts have said they would all need to be monitored closely for signs of psychological distress that could take months to manifest.
They spent nine days in the dark, dank cave before being located by two British divers.
The boys — and their parents — have been advised to spend time with friends and family and not to give media interviews as that could trigger post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
But the interest in their story is unlikely to evaporate overnight, as Hollywood producers are already jockeying to make a film version of the saga.