Malaysians vent their anger online over value of assets seized

By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Pic By BLOOMBERG

The police’s announcement that RM1.1 billion worth of cash, diamonds, Hermes handbags and Rolex watches were seized from premises linked to Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak has created a strong disgust among most Malaysians.

Many had taken to the Internet to vent their anger over the estimated value and quantity of the items seized. The police dubbed the items confisticated as the “the biggest seizure in Malaysian history”.

Netizens in their comments wanted the authority to take immediate actions and arrest those implicated. Others questioned how anyone could accumulate so much wealth and jewelleries.

Many also equalled the seizure to other fallen foreign corrupt leaders who were accused of amassing billions of dollars while they were in power, such as the Marcos and Mugabes.

Some Malaysians pointed out that even Queen Elizabeth II had fewer jewelleries compared to the confiscated items.

According to news report, Queen Elizabeth II is said to have more than 300 pieces of jewelleries in her personal collection — some 98 brooches, 46 necklaces, 34 pairs of ear- rings, 15 rings, 14 watches and five pendants.

Her personal fortune, largely inherited from her family, was estimated at US$425 million (RM1.71 billion) in 2015, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Some netizens also came up with puns suggesting that the jewelleries seized were sufficient to fill up seven branches of a gold shop chain.

News about the seizure’s value were the main story for global news outlets yesterday.

CNN, CNBC, BBC, New York Times, The Tribune, Bloomberg, Reuters, AFP, The Independent and The Guardian were among those providing acres of coverage. The Bangkok Post’s headline reads “Treasure trove seized from ex-Malaysia PM worth up to B9bn”.

The seized items included a RM6.4 million diamond necklace with yellow gold, 272 Hermes bags, as well as Rolex, Chopard and Richard Mille watches. The jewelleries comprise 12,000 items including 14 tiaras.

Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Datuk Seri Amar Singh Ishar Singh said Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor will be questioned by the police soon over the items seized.

The former prime minister had been cleared of any wrongdoing related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) by the former attorney general. Both Najib and Rosmah have not been charged on the latest seizures or any other investigations by the government.

Unwelcomed Global Publicity

The value of the confiscated items puts Malaysia on the same stratosphere as other global scandals such as the Philippines former President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos (picture); Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe and his family; and President of Zaire, now Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mobutu Sese Seko.

Marcos had allegedly embezzled between US$5 billion and US$10 billion (RM40.3 billion) during his 21 years in office. His wife Imelda was said to have over 1,000 luxury shoes left at the Malacanang Palace in Manila after their exile, 888 handbags, 71 pairs of sunglasses and 65 parasols.

The former first lady also owned a collection of pink diamonds worth RM21.16 million, besides Michelangelo paintings worth RM13.9 million. She owned more than 1,500 handbags, 1,200 high-fashion dresses and 35 wardrobes to house her fur coats.

Former Zimbabwean President Mugabe allegedly was involved in diamond corruption which cost the country billions of dollars.

Zimbabwe reportedly lost US$15 billion in revenue due to corruption and foreign exploitation of its diamond sector.

His second wife, Grace, was also dubbed as “The First Shopper” or “Gucci Grace” for her obsession with luxury brands. The Mugabe’s family fortunes reportedly exceeded US$1 billion, with property assets allegedly in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

Mobutu had been accused of embezzling between US$4 and US$5 billion during his 32 years as the president, amassing one of the largest personal fortunes globally.

The embezzled amount was reported to be equivalent to the country’s foreign debt at the time, which it defaulted.

He was attributed to this quote: “If you steal, do not steal too much at a time. You may be arrested. Steal cleverly, little by little.”