Treasure trove seized from ex-Malaysia PM worth up to $273 million

A vast trove of items seized in raids on properties, including cash, jewellery and luxury handbags, linked to Malaysia’s scandal-mired former leader Najib Razak are worth up to $273 million, police said on Wednesday.

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.

“I think this is the biggest seizure in Malaysian history,” said Amar Singh, the police’s head of commercial crime investigations, after officials completed the mammoth task of counting up all the items they uncovered in raids around Kuala Lumpur last month.

He said the items were worth between 910 million ringgit ($225 million) and 1.1 billion ringgit ($273 million).

The official salary of Najib Razak, the former premier, while in office was 22,827 ringgit ($5,670) a month.

Allegations of massive corruption were a major factor behind last month’s shocking election loss of Razak’s long-ruling coalition to a reformist alliance headed by Mahathir Mohamad.

Razak and his cronies were accused of plundering billions of dollars from 1MDB to buy everything from US real estate to artworks. Razak and the fund deny any wrongdoing.

His luxury-loving wife Rosmah Mansor became a lightning rod for public anger due to her vast collection of handbags and jewels, and her reported love of overseas shopping trips.

The mind-boggling collection of luxury items listed by police will increase public anger at the former first couple, whose spendthrift ways came to symbolise the decadence and rot in the Barisan Nasional coalition which had ruled the country uninterrupted since independence from Britain in 1957.

The items were seized in raids on six premises linked to Razak, including luxury apartments in Kuala Lumpur and his main residence in an upmarket part of the city.

The huge collection of jewellery included 1,400 necklaces and 2,200 rings. The most expensive item of jewellery was a necklace, which was estimated to be worth 6.4 million ringgit ($1.5 million) Singh said.

A total of 567 handbags were also seized, including 272 Hermes bags, worth 51.3 million ringgit, police said, adding that the values of the other handbags were still being calculated.

A total of 423 watches worth a total of 78 million ringgit were also discovered, along with 234 pairs of sunglasses.

New prime minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad, who has just started his second stint as premier at the age of 92, has reopened investigations into 1MDB which were shut down by Razak, and has vowed that the former leader will be charged.

Since their election loss, Razak and Rosmah have been questioned by anti-graft investigators over allegations that money linked to the state fund ended up Razak’s bank accounts.

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