Malaysian police seized US$29 million in cash from properties linked to Najib Razak but now Umno party wants it back
A week after Najib’s defeat in an election on May 9, police raided his home and other properties as anti-graft agents relaunched an investigation into what happened to billions of dollars missing from an insolvent state fund
Malaysia’s defeated United Malays National Organisation (Umno) has asked police to return to the party millions of dollars seized from properties linked to former prime minister Najib Razak.
Malaysian police said the cash amounted to nearly US$30 million.
A week after Najib’s defeat in an election on May 9, police raided his home and other properties as anti-graft agents relaunched an investigation into what happened to billions of dollars missing from an insolvent state fund founded by Najib during his nearly 10 years in power.
Umno said in statement late on Thursday that the money was campaign contributions and party funding left over after the election and it was seized while it was in the process of being transferred to the party’s new leadership.
“As such, Umno seeks to recover these funds and requests the police to release these funds and return them to the party after completion of all due process and investigations by the relevant authorities,” the party said.
Out of power for the first time since independence six decades ago, Umno said it needed the money to recover from its defeat.
“Umno is in the process of rebuilding and the return of our party funds will help in this process,” the statement said.
Najib quit as president of Umno a day after the election, and was replaced by his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
The new government is led by 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, a former prime minister and Umno leader who joined the opposition to defeat his erstwhile protégé after becoming convinced of his corruption.
Umno has long been known for its ‘cash politics’, as the party has built its support among ethnic Malays through a system of patronage.
The Umno statement noted that Mahathir had handed back 1.2 billion ringgit (US$301 million) to the party and its 3 million members when he stepped down as party president in 2003.
On Thursday, Najib concluded a statement to anti-graft agents related to transactions of US$10.6 million into his bank account that investigators had traced to a former unit of 1MDB.
Police on Friday said they seized over 400 handbags and cash amounting to almost US$30 million in raids on Najib’s properties.
A total of 12 locations were searched by police last week as part of an investigation into the 1MDB scandal.
The police’s commercial crime head Amar Singh said: “From the money found, there were 26 currencies, the total amount as of yesterday is 114 million [ringgit] (US$28.6 million).”
The money was found in 35 bags at one apartment while another 37 bags at the same location contained watches and jewellery, he told a press conference. A total of 284 boxes containing designer handbags were found in that condominium.
Police also seized about 150 handbags from another apartment in the same complex where Najib’s daughter was staying.
Many of the handbags were believed to be Hermes Birkins – a favourite of Najib’s luxury-loving, widely unpopular wife Rosmah Mansor – and Singh said pictures of the bags would be sent to Hermes in Paris to get an estimate of their value.
The seizure of the luxury goods further increased public scorn for Rosmah, long reviled by Malaysians for her perceived haughty demeanour and reported vast collection of designer bags, clothing and jewellery.
Her love of overseas shopping trips, as middle class Malaysians struggled with rising living costs, added to a sense of spreading, deeply-entrenched rot in the country’s long-ruling elite.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse