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Wednesday
May302018

In Malaysia, the inventory of Najib's ‘spoils’ keeps growing

Malaysian police with boxes siezed from Najib's condo (image via YouTube)Police in Kuala Lumpur are releasing more details about what they've seized from houses and condos belonging to Najib Razak, the former prime minister voted out of office this month amid a growing corruption investigation.

The seized items include suitcases holding about $28 million in cash, police said Friday.

Police also have taken about 400 handbags, many of them Hermes Birkins, which can be worth more than $100,000 each. Other handbag brands seized include Chanel, Gucci, Versace, Prada, and Louis Vuitton.

At one of Najib's houses, police said they seized 10 watches, most of them Rolexes.

A police spokesperson, Amar Singh, said: "From the money found, there were 26 currencies, the total amount as of yesterday is 114 million ringgit ($28.6 million)."

At a condo raided last week, police filled five trucks with boxes of handbags and other property.

Najib, 64, was prime minister from 2009 until his ruling coalition lost power in elections earlier this month. The coalition had ruled for six decades.

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that Najib deposited into his personal bank accounts about $700 million from a Malaysia sovereign wealth fund known as 1Malaysia Development Berhad or 1MDB.

Najib has always denied the allegations. A government panel he appointed in Malaysia cleared him of wrongdoing.

The U.S. Justice Department has alleged in court filings that more than $4.5 billion was looted from 1MDB from 2009 through 2015 "by high-level officials" of the fund and their associates. Najib wasn't named. He was chairman of 1MDB while he was prime minister.

So far, the DOJ has filed forfeiture actions against nearly $1.7 billion in assets linked to 1MDB.

Singapore seized property and bank accounts worth about $177 million linked to money allegedly diverted from the fund.

Swiss prosecutors said in 2016 that a criminal investigation produced “serious indications” that about $4 billion may have been misappropriated from 1MBD.

Police in Malaysia said last week they confiscated 1MDB-related documents from the former prime minister’s office. A total of 12 locations have been searched, police said.

Najib and his wife, Rosmah, haven't been charged but are barred from leaving Malaysia.

Amar Singh, the police spokesperson, said Friday: "We confiscated 284 boxes containing handbags. We also confiscated 72 luggage bags which contain cash of various denominations, jewelry and other valuables.”

In the United States, the DOJ has also alleged that Najib’s stepson used money taken from 1MDB to produce movies, including “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, 92, led Malaysia from 1981 to 2003. After he switched to the opposition, he promised to investigate the looting of 1MDB and Najib's alleged role.

Najib’s lawyer said last week his client is facing "unwarranted harassment.”

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.