Malaysia’s former first lady in lawsuit over $14.8m jewelry

Rosmah Mansor, wife of Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak, leaves a courtroom in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 4, 2018. (REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin)
Updated 13 July 2018

Malaysia’s former first lady in lawsuit over $14.8m jewelry

  • Global Royalty claims that 44 high-end pieces of jewelry worth $14.8 million were consigned to former Malaysian first lady Rosmah Mansor from previous years as a marketing strategy.
  • The Beirut-based firm is an exclusive jeweler that has clients who are celebrities, politicians and members of royal families, including Angelina Jolie, Naomi Campbell, Oprah Winfrey and wealthy Middle Easterners.

KUALA LUMPUR: Lebanese jeweler Global Royalty Trading SAL — a firm that specializes in selling high-end jewelry pieces — is suing Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The international jewelry supplier filed the suit at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on June 26 against the former first lady, who it claimed was a “long-standing customer.”

The Beirut-based firm is seeking a declaration from the court that the firm is “the rightful owner” of the consigned jewelry pieces that the Malaysia government seized at Najib Razak’s home in May.

It claimed that 44 high-end pieces of jewelry worth $14.8 million were consigned to Rosmah Mansor from previous years, according to a court document seen by the online portal Malaysiakini. The jewelry pieces included diamond-studded earrings, rings, tiaras, necklaces and bracelets. 

“It is a marketing strategy. Rosmah is well-connected, and by leaving her a few baubles she is bound to show it to her girlfriends who may try it with no pressure as experienced in the shop,” said Karen Hoisington, a Singapore-based socialite and brand consultant.

Global Royalty is an exclusive jeweler that has clients who are celebrities, politicians and members of royal families, including Angelina Jolie, Naomi Campbell, Oprah Winfrey and wealthy Middle Easterners.

In the statement of claim, the jewelry pieces would be sent to Rosmah “according to her demand.” She would then evaluate, purchase and then pay for items via a third party. Those that were not chosen would be returned.

“When a customer knows she (Rosmah) can resell her item, she’s going to be willing to pay a little more for it. It’s a window. There’s an ability to see where the desire is,” said Hoisington, adding that the luxury consignment is a growing business that includes designer handbags, luxury watches, luxury cars and red-carpet gowns. 

“Remember in the movie 'Pretty Woman,' Richard Gere gave Julia Roberts a Harry Winston necklace to wear to a party. That is consigned out. If he wanted to buy it he can, but it’s a great advertisement for them to drive customers to their retail shop,” she said.

The Lebanese jeweler alleged that Rosmah or her agent would receive the jewelry pieces in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Dubai.

A “handover memorandum” with terms and conditions would accompany the jewelry consignment. Through memorandum number 926, dated Feb. 10 this year, Rosmah Mansor was alleged to have received the jewelry, which she acknowledged receiving in a letter dated May 22, though the pieces are no longer in her possession.

Hoisington told Arab News that the practice is more common with the “new rich,” who would rather get an item to “show off to others” and have “a feel of the brand.”

The former first lady is embroiled in a scandal involving the misappropriation of 1MDB state funds, in which $700 million of the alleged amount was found in the personal account of Najib Razak.

Since the new government of Malaysia took office on May 10, the 1MDB corruption case has been reopened by the government and the police have recovered cash and luxury items worth millions from the couple’s homes. The jewelry owned by the Lebanese jeweler was said to be part of the seized goods.

“With this investigation, it is hard to ascertain. There is no paper trail. One is dealing with a very professional and experienced couple. They are masters at this and stay just under the law,” Hoisington said.

Rosmah Mansor through her lawyers on Tuesday denied the lawsuit accusation by the Lebanese jeweler about receiving the jewelry consignment.




Japan’s ‘Uncle Olympics’ fan dies just short of 2020 Games

Naotoshi Yamada, above, was planning to attend the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. (Reuters/File)
Updated 18 March 2019

Japan’s ‘Uncle Olympics’ fan dies just short of 2020 Games

  • The man attended all summer games since 1964
  • He often wore a golden hat when he attended the games

TOKYO: A Japanese Olympic mega-fan who attended every summer games since Tokyo in 1964 has died, just over a year before his home city was to host its second Olympics.
Tokyo businessman Naotoshi Yamada, 92, who died on March 9 from heart failure, was a national celebrity in his own right with his repeated, gleeful appearances in Olympic stands.
“Uncle Olympics,” as he came to be known, was an omnipresent fixture for Japanese TV watchers cheering on the Japan team at the “Greatest Show On Earth.”
Often sporting a gold top hat, kimono, and a beaming smile, Yamada also became a darling of the international media.
“After 92 years of his life spent cheering, Naotoshi Yamada, international Olympic cheerleader, was called to eternal rest on March 9, 2019,” said his web site, managed by a firm he founded.
Born in 1926, Yamada built a successful wire rope manufacturing business, and also expanded his portfolio to include the hotel and real estate sectors.
But away from work, his passion was for sport, particularly the Olympics.
He did not miss a summer games since 1964, taking in Mexico City, Munich, Montreal, Moscow, Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro.
For good measure, he also attended the winter games when it rolled into Nagano in 1998, and told local media of his strong desire to attend the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Yamada saw the first Tokyo Olympics when he was 38.
But his passion was truly ignited during the 1968 Mexico City Games, according to his website.
He donned a kimono and a sombrero hat and loudly cheered for a Mexican 5000-meter runner, mistaking him for a Japanese athlete.
Local spectators embraced the scene and loudly cheered for Japanese athletes in return, leading to an electrifying show of support that went beyond nationality, his website said.
“He saw the awesome power of cheering, and was mesmerised by it ever since,” it said.