Malaysia 1MDB scandal

Malaysia’s ex-PM Najib Razak slams ‘inflated’ US$273 million police valuation of seized items, ‘vengeance’ on family

Police called last month’s seizure the biggest in Malaysia’s history

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 5:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 9:49pm

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak said a huge haul of jewellery and valuables seized by police from properties linked to him as part of a money-laundering probe were mostly gifts and the police valuation was likely grossly inflated.

Police on Wednesday estimated the total value of cash, jewellery, watches and handbags to be at least US$273 million, calling last month’s seizure the biggest in Malaysia’s history.

Allegations of corruption at the defunct 1MDB state investment fund that Najib set up led to his shocking defeat in May 9 elections and the end of the 60-year unbroken rule of his coalition.

Najib and his wife have been barred from leaving the country and have both been grilled by anti-graft officials.

They have denied any wrongdoing.

Police in May raided 12 locations, including Najib’s family home and apartments at a high-end Kuala Lumpur condominium, as part of the probe into a criminal breach of trust involving the 1MDB fund.

Police said the items comprise 12,000 pieces of jewellery, 567 handbags, 423 watches and 234 sunglasses.

The jewellery included 2,200 rings, 1,400 necklaces, 2,100 bracelets, 2,800 pair of earrings, 1,600 brooches and 14 tiaras.

Najib said Thursday the estimate based on current prices was unrealistic and inflated as the items were gifts given over decades.

“Any valuation based on retail price and at current prices would be unrealistic, likely to be grossly inflated and will give a very distorted picture as these items were received as gifts over a period that spans decades,” Najib said in a statement.

He said the valuation of the items “appears to be done with a view for political vengeance and political attack on my family”.

For example, he said a 3.4 million ringgit (US$841,000) Rolex Daytona watch listed by police as among the most expensive items was a gift from a Middle Eastern interior minister who visited Malaysia in March.

Najib said police valuation based on current prices is “unrealistic, likely to be grossly inflated and will give a very distorted picture as these items were received as gifts over a period that spans decades.”

Police will soon call Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, as well as people who allegedly gave them some of the items as gifts for questioning, commercial crime investigations chief Amar Singh said Wednesday.

Najib set up the 1MDB fund when he took power in 2009, but it accumulated billions in debts.

US investigators say Najib’s associates stole and laundered US$4.5 billion from the fund from 2009 to 2014, some of which landed in Najib’s bank account.

They say US$27.3 million was used to buy a rare diamond necklace for Rosmah.

New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations into 1MDB that were suppressed under Najib’s rule.

Mahathir, who previously was prime minister for 22 years until 2003, was spurred out of retirement by the 1MDB scandal.

He has vowed there will be no deal for Najib, saying he will face the consequences if found guilty of wrongdoing.

Additional reporting by Reuters