KUALA LUMPUR: Raids on former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s homes netted more than $270 million in cash and valuables, including jewelry and designer handbags, police said yesterday.
Malaysian police raided six of Razak’s properties in May in connection with the 1MDB state fund scandal in which billions in assets disappeared.
Amar Singh, chief of the Commercial Crime Investigative Department, said that the haul — the biggest seizure in Malaysia’s history — included $29 million in cash in 26 different currencies.
Police took three days to count the money with the help of 22 Malaysia Central Bank officers and six counting machines.
Jewelry worth $110 million was also seized, including thousands of necklaces, rings, tiaras, bangles and earrings. The most expensive item was a yellow-gold necklace with diamonds worth $1.5 million.
Among more than 560 luxury handbags seized by the authorities were designer brands such as Hermes, Prada and Chanel. Police also found a custom-made Bijan, one of the most expensive handbags in the world, among the stashed goods.
Other items included 423 luxury watches worth $19 million and 234 pairs of sunglasses valued at $93,000.
The seized items are being kept in Malaysia’s central bank.
Last week, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, said that investigators have “an almost perfect case” against the main suspects in the 1MDB graft scandal. Mahathir also claimed that Razak was “totally responsible.”
Singh told reporters that Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, will be called for questioning by the Malaysian authorities shortly.
Professor James Chin, a Malaysian expert and director of the Asia Institute at Tasmania University, said that if Razak is found guilty of corruption, it will create political shockwaves. Previously it was accepted that former prime ministers, royals and governors were above the law and could never be charged for any crime.
“This is the first time in Malaysia’s history that a former prime minister could be charged for corruption,” he said.
Malaysia was nearing “an important stage in moving democracy forward. It will be understood that even a prime minister can be held accountable for his actions.”