Malaysian police seize bags filled with cash in probe of ex-PM

 abc.net.au  5/18/2018 5:53:48 AM 

Updated May 18, 2018 16:08:58

Malaysian police have confiscated 284 designer handbags, as well as 72 suitcases containing cash, jewellery and other valuables as part of a corruption and money-laundering investigation into former prime minister Najib Razak.

Commercial crime chief Amar Singh said the valuables were seized in a search that began late on Thursday at apartments linked to Mr Najib at an upscale property in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Singh said the seizure was part of investigations into a corruption scandal at the 1MDB state fund, which is also being investigated by the US and other countries.

US investigators said Mr Najib's associates stole and laundered $US4.5 billion ($6 billion) from the fund, some of which landed in Mr Najib's bank account, and that $30.6 million was used to buy a pink diamond necklace for his wife.

Mr Najib, whose coalition was ousted in a stunning election defeat last week, denied any wrongdoing.

Television stations showed footage of police carting away orange boxes containing handbags and luggage of various sizes from the property.

Mr Singh said the seizure included Birkin Hermes bags, cash in various currencies, watches and a "big amount" of jewellery.

Mr Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor, is known in Malaysia for her love of designer Birkin bags, which can cost from $16,000 to more than $266,000.

Mr Singh declined to say who the apartments belonged to but that the, "search was conducted in relevance to our 1MDB investigations".

He said police also conducted simultaneous raids at several other locations, including Mr Najib's family house, his former office as prime minister and an official residence.

Documents related to 1MDB were seized from the office and police are still trying to crack open a safe in Mr Najib's house, he said.

New Prime Minister reopens corruption probe

Mr Singh declined to say if the haul was enough to indict Mr Najib, saying the search for evidence was ongoing.

New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who led an opposition alliance to victory in May 9 polls that ended the 60-year rule of Mr Najib's coalition, reopened the probe into 1MDB.

Dr Mahathir, 92, said an initial investigation showed the scale of wrongdoing by Mr Najib's administration was more serious than expected.

He has said arrests would be made when there was evidence, and there would be "no deal" with Mr Najib.

Dr Mahathir was premier for 22 years until 2003 but made a political comeback amid anger over the 1MDB scandal.

Police spent 20 hours searching Mr Najib's house, and his lawyer said items such as handbags and clothing were taken away.

Several police cars arrived at Mr Najib's house this morning, fuelling speculation his arrest may be imminent. Mr Najib and his wife have been barred from travelling overseas.

Dr Mahathir said the Government would seek to retrieve billions of dollars laundered from 1MDB to repay government debts that had piled up over the years.

The Government also told the current Attorney-General, who cleared Mr Najib of wrongdoing in 2016, to go on leave, and had relieved the country's treasury chief, who was also the 1MDB chairman.

The Government set up a five-member committee, including a former attorney-general and an adviser to Indonesia's Financial Services Authority, to handle the 1MDB case.

Topics: world-politics, corruption, law-crime-and-justice, malaysia, asia

First posted May 18, 2018 15:53:48

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