Wife of former PM Najib denies owning $23M pink diamond necklace

BenarNews staff
2022.03.25
Washington
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Wife of former PM Najib denies owning $23M pink diamond necklace Former Malaysian first lady Rosmah Mansor accompanied by her daughter, Nooryana Najwa Najib (left), arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, Jan. 8, 2020.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

The lawyers for the wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak denied Friday that she had ever received a $23 million pink diamond necklace, after a receipt for it was presented as evidence during the U.S. trial of a banker linked to the 1MDB corruption scandal.

The jeweler who created the necklace did not testify at the New York trial of ex-Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng, but prosecutors said she issued a statement about having delivered it to then first lady Rosmah Mansor aboard a yacht off Monaco’s coast in 2013, according to a report by Bloomberg News.

“It is pertinent to note that our client had never received the pink diamond necklace and this is evident as despite being subjected to several raids by the authorities, the pink diamond necklace was never found to be in possession of our client,” attorneys Geethan Ram Vincent, Rajivan Nambiar and Reza Rahim said in a statement issued Friday.

“Our client also has no knowledge of the invoice produced and shown to the jury in the Roger Ng trial. In any event, our client takes the position that the production of the invoice per se does not amount to any form of conclusive evidence implicating our client in the purchase of the pink diamond necklace.”

In her statement presented by prosecutors to the U.S. court on Wednesday, jeweler Lorraine Schwartz said Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho (also known as Jho Low) contacted her in June 2013 to create the necklace, which features a 22-carat pink diamond, Bloomberg reported, adding that Low was present on the yacht when Schwartz delivered it to Rosmah.

As of Friday afternoon, the jeweler’s statement had not yet been entered into the court’s docket, according to information obtained by BenarNews.

After U.S. prosecutors rested their case against Ng on Thursday, his lawyers called one of their assistants, Katelyn Giesler, who testified that he was not on the yacht at that time, according to Bloomberg.

Ng, a Malaysian citizen, allegedly acted as a key figure in an elaborate bribery, embezzlement and money-laundering scandal that crossed international borders and implicated Najib, bringing down his government in 2018, prosecutors have said.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged that Ng, joined by fellow Goldman Sachs banker Timothy Leissner, Low and others, conspired to steal more than U.S. $2.7 billion (11.3 billion ringgit) from 1MDB.

It charged Ng with conspiring to violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying bribes to government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, and conspiring to circumvent Goldman Sachs accounting controls, according to court documents.

Leissner pleaded guilty in 2018 to two charges related to money laundering and agreed to forfeit $43.7 million (184 million ringgit) and testified against Ng earlier this month.

Malaysian charges

Najib, meanwhile, is appealing his 12-year sentence following his July 2020 conviction on seven money laundering and other charges linked to SRC International, a subsidiary 1Malaysia Development Berhad. The former PM faces 35 charges linked specifically to 1MDB, the state development fund he created in 2009 while also serving as finance minister.  

Malaysian and U.S. prosecutors allege that at least $4.5 billion (18.9 billion ringgit) was stolen from 1MDB, in what authorities in the United States described as the “worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times.”

In April 2019, Khalil Azlan Chik, chief of the Malaysia police Anti-Money Laundering division, said a money trail showed that 1MDB funds were used to purchase the necklace. Investigators had confiscated cash and items including jewelry and designer handbags valued at 720 million ringgit ($171 million) during searches of properties owned by Najib and Rosmah in 2018, but a court in November 2021 ordered those items be returned.

“Even though the ‘pink diamond’ has failed to be found during the police raids, there was clear evidence to show that the purchase transaction existed,” Khalil said at the time.

In 2018, Malaysian prosecutors charged Low with three counts of receiving funds and five counts of transferring funds totaling 1 billion ringgit ($237 million) under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act.

Malaysian police officials have said an Interpol red notice was filed against the fugitive financier whose multi-million dollar yacht, Equanimity, was impounded and sold by the government.

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