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.




Weinstein in search of a lawyer as trial approaches

Updated 19 June 2019

Weinstein in search of a lawyer as trial approaches

  • He is accused of harassment by more than 80 women
  • Weinstein’s first lawyer withdrew from the case in January

NEW YORK: The main lawyer for Harvey Weinstein has asked a judge to be removed from the case, leaving the disgraced movie mogul without counsel as his sexual assault trial approaches in September.
Weinstein has been charged over the alleged assaults of two women — a rape in 2013 and an incident of forced oral sex in 2006. He faces life in prison if convicted, and is also accused of sexual misconduct with dozens of other women.
Weinstein’s first lawyer, Benjamin Braufman, withdrew in January after which Weinstein hired two other high-profile attorneys, Ronald Sullivan and Jose Baez.
Sullivan, who also teaches at Harvard, pulled out in May after coming under fierce criticism on campus for defending the man seen as giving rise to the #MeToo movement.
Once one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, Weinstein has been accused of harassment and assault by more than 80 women, including stars such as Angelina Jolie and Ashley Judd.
Then last week Baez asked to withdraw from the case, New York news outlets reported. He did so in a letter to State Supreme Court Justice James Burke, who is overseeing the case.
“First, Mr. Weinstein has engaged in behavior that makes this representation unreasonably difficult to carry out effectively and has insisted upon taking actions with which I have fundamental disagreements,” Baez wrote.
“For example, he has engaged outside counsel to communicate with myself and my co-counsel and has decided to have another attorney threaten legal action against this firm,” Baez said, adding that since May 15 or earlier Weinstein has known that Baez probably could not stay with the case.
Neither Baez, nor a spokesman for Weinstein nor the Manhattan prosecutor’s office responded to AFP’s requests for comment.
No hearing is scheduled until September 9, when jury selection is scheduled to begin in a trial that promises to be a media sensation.
It is not clear if the trial might be postponed because of Weinstein’s lawyer problems.