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Malaysia Seizes Najib’s ‘Rather Big’ Trove of Jewels and Handbags

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The police investigating Malaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, said they seized more than 350 boxes and bags containing cash, jewelry and designer handbags early Friday during searches of three residences.

Included in the haul were 284 boxes of handbags and 72 pieces of luggage containing cash, jewelry, watches and other valuables, said Amar Singh, chief of the police commercial crimes unit.

He said that the police needed to assess the seized items before they could put a value on the haul. But the amount of jewelry, he said, “is rather big.”

Mr. Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, are at the center of a scandal over an estimated $ 7.5 billion that went missing from a government investment fund, 1Malyasia Development Berhad, which he oversaw. Authorities say that $ 731 million from the fund was deposited in Mr. Najib’s personal bank account.

Mr. Najib and Ms. Rosmah are barred from leaving the country.

Ms. Rosmah, who during Mr. Najib’s time in power often appeared in public wearing expensive jewelry and carrying Hermès Birkin handbags, became a symbol of the family’s excesses.

Her son Riza Aziz, Mr. Najib’s stepson, used money taken from the Malaysian fund to produce movies, including “The Wolf of Wall Street,” according to the United States Department of Justice, which is seeking to recover $ 1.7 billion it says was laundered through American financial institutions.

Video posted by Star TV showed the police wheeling confiscated items in shopping carts and loading them into a truck outside the Pavilion Residences, a luxury condominium building in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital.

“We confiscated 284 boxes containing handbags,” Mr. Amar Singh told reporters as the police loaded the truck. “We also confiscated 72 luggage bags which contain cash of various denominations, jewelry and other valuables.”

Some luxury handbags can sell for $ 100,000 or more. It is unclear how many were in the boxes seized from the Pavilion apartments.

In a separate search of Mr. Najib’s house, the police seized 10 watches, most of them Rolexes, and 35 handbags of various brands, including Chanel, Gucci, Versace, Prada and Louis Vuitton.

Mr. Amar Singh said investigators had confiscated documents related to 1MDB from the former prime minister’s office during a separate search.

Mr. Najib’s lawyer, Harpal Singh Grewal, complained Thursday that the search of the residence was taking too long, and that the police were making too much noise by drilling through a safe for hours to open it.

“The search conducted in the premises and the items seized thus far would seem of insignificant value and the continued presence of police officers in his residence and the drilling of the old safe strongly suggests unwarranted harassment,” he said in a statement distributed to the news media.

Sharon Tan contributed reporting.

Source: NYT > World

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