Jewelry, designer handbags, cash and other luxury goods seized from residences linked to ex- Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak were worth up to U.S. $273 million but did not include a rare pink diamond that American officials had valued at an estimated $27.3 million, police said Wednesday.
Malaysian police hauled off the valuables during a raid last month that was part of a probe into financial scandal-plagued 1MDB, a state investment fund started by Najib in 2009 and from which billions of dollars was siphoned and laundered, according to U.S. investigators.
“The total cost of all items, the retail price will be touching 900 million ($225 million) to 1.1 billion ringgit ($273 million),” Amar Singh Ishar Singh, chief of the commercial crimes investigation division of the Royal Malaysia Police, told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.
The items included 117 million ringgit (U.S. $29 million) in cash in different currencies, luxury handbags, a large number of designer Swiss-made watches and 12,000 pieces of jewelry, he said.
It took police officers and experts 16 days just to evaluate and categorize the jewelry, Singh added, as he detailed the estimated worth of items that offered stunning details on the extent of the ex-prime minister’s lifestyle.
The most expensive item of jewelry seized was a yellow gold necklace with white diamonds worth 6.4 million ringgit (U.S. $1.6 million), Singh said.
Singh, in reading out a catalogue of the seized items, did not mention the rare 22-carat pink diamond set in a necklace. According to a civil lawsuit filed last year by the U.S. Justice Department, the necklace was among jewelry bought for the wife of “Malaysian Official 1” using funds allegedly stolen from 1MDB. The diamond set was worth $27.3 million, according to court documents obtained by BenarNews.
Although the documents in the civil lawsuit did not specifically mention Malaysia’s then prime minister by name, Malaysian and U.S. government sources had previously said that “Malaysian Official 1” was Najib and the wife mentioned in the lawsuit referred to Rosmah Mansor.
Singh said luxury Hermès Birkins, which were among 37 brands of luxury handbags seized during the raid, were valued at 51.3 million ringgit (U.S. $13 million), and there were 423 designer watches, including a Rolex Daytona worth 3.5 million ringgit (U.S. $868,000).
He said it took 22 officers from Malaysia’s Central Bank three days to count the confiscated cash in 26 currencies that police found in 35 bags during the May 16 search.
He later explained that the jewelry valuation of 440 million ringgit (U.S. $ 109.12 million) was only for the materials and did not include others costs, including workmanship and design, which would add 50 percent to 100 percent to the total.
He also said that 567 handbags seized from a unit linked to Najib in the Pavilion Residences, a luxury condominium building in Kuala Lumpur, included high-priced designer brands such as Hermès, Prada, Chanel and Bijan.
‘The most expensive is the Hermès bag worth 1.6 million ringgit (U.S. $397,000),” he said.
The entire process of counting and valuation of all seized goods took more than a month and involved 150 officers, Singh said.
Najib, spouse to be summoned by police
Singh also told reporters that the police would soon be calling Najib and his wife, Rosmah, to have their statements recorded.
“We will be calling Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor soon but I won’t know when because we also need to call other people, such as the alleged gift givers,” he said.
Najib, 64, lost power after the opposition bloc battered his ruling coalition in the May 9 general election.
The U.S. Justice Department is seeking to recover a total of $1.7 billion in assets that were allegedly siphoned off by Najib associates from a total of $4.5 billion allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB, which was set up by Najib in 2009 ostensibly to promote economic development. The department has described the 1MDB affair as the “worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times.”
Najib has denied any wrongdoing related to 1MDB. He earlier said that the seized luxury handbags were gifts to his wife from his son-in-law Daniyar Nazarbayev, the nephew of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
In an interview with Reuters on June 20, Najib said he did not know if hundreds of millions of dollars that moved through his personal account was from 1MDB, and if money from the fund was eventually laundered to acquire assets globally, including yachts, paintings, gems and prime real estate.
“I’m not party to the yacht, the paintings. … I’ve never seen those paintings whatsoever,” Najib said. “I was not aware of these purchases. This was done without my knowledge.”