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Malaysia 1MDB scandal

Malaysia anti-graft agency questions ex-PM’s wife Rosmah Mansor about 1MDB money-laundering

Flanked by security guards and her lawyers, Rosmah Mansor stepped out of a silver Mercedes carrying a bright red handbag that appeared to be a model made by Italian luxury fashion brand Versace

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 10:58am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 10:01pm

The wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was questioned Tuesday by the anti-graft agency over alleged theft and money-laundering involving the 1MDB state investment fund, as Najib’s lawyers said they had pulled out.

The spotlight is now on Rosmah Mansor after police last month raided two properties linked to Najib and his family as part of an investigation into his role in the 1MDB scandal - seizing bags of cash, jewellery and hundreds of designer handbags.

Rosmah, 66, is widely reviled in Malaysia for her reported luxurious tastes and imperious manner. She last month issued a statement lashing out at media coverage of the police raids, calling them a “premature public trial”.

Known for her love of luxury clothes and handbags, Rosmah arrived for questioning in a three-car convoy.

Flanked by security guards and lawyers, she stepped out of car carrying a bright red handbag that appeared to be a model made by Italian luxury fashion brand Versace.

Following her departure from the agency headquarters, her lawyers said anti-graft investigators had completed recording her statement after a session lasting over three hours during which she gave her “utmost cooperation”.

The nature of the questioning was not made public, however earlier reports said Rosmah was expected to give a statement on the suspicious transfer of about US$10.6 million into Najib’s personal bank account that had been traced to the former 1MDB unit SRC International.

Billions of dollars were allegedly stolen from the 1MDB fund - founded by Najib - in a sophisticated fraud that stretched from Singapore to Switzerland, with the money used to buy items ranging from Picasso artworks to high-end real estate.

Both Najib and the fund have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Rosmah spent nearly five hours in the building before leaving in a silver Mercedes-Benz.

“Our client will extend further cooperation as and when sought by the agency,” lawyer K. Kumaraendran told gathered media in a prepared statement.

Former prime minister Najib has seen a swift fall from grace since he was defeated by a reformist coalition led by his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad, in elections last month.

Voter anger at claims of corruption tied to Najib and a rise in living costs were among major factors in the shocking defeat of the ruling coalition, which had been in power for over six decades.

Najib himself was questioned by anti-graft officers twice last month. Both he and his wife have been banned from leaving the country.

Earlier on Tuesday, some lawyers representing Najib and Rosmah on the SRC case said they had quit.

M. Puravalen, a lawyer acting for Najib and Rosmah in connection with the SRC investigations, said he had “ceased acting” for Najib and Rosmah.

He said a second lawyer, Yusof Zainal Abideen, had also quit.

He denied reports that they quit because of disagreement over the 1MDB case but declined to elaborate.

News site The Malaysian Insight reported that Puravalen, Abideen and other members of their legal team had walked out because they failed to reach common ground with Najib on several issues.

Abideen could not be reached immediately reached for comment.

The luxury-loving Rosmah is often compared with Imelda Marcos, who left behind more than a thousand pairs of shoes after her husband, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, was ousted in 1986.

In raids over the past weeks, police have seized 114 million ringgit (US$28.6 million) in cash and more than 400 handbags. Experts were being brought in to value the jewellery, watches and other seized items.

1MDB is also the subject of money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Reuters