By AZREEN HANI / Pic By BERNAMA
The police have seized about RM1.1 billion in cash, diamonds, Hermes handbags, Rolex watches and 14 tiaras from six residences linked to Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak in what authorities dubbed as the “the biggest seizure in Malaysian history”.
The seized items included a RM6.4 million diamond necklace with yellow gold, 272 Hermes bags — besides Rolex, Chopard and Richard Mille watches — in raids at various premises including posh condos in one of the most expensive addresses in Kuala Lumpur last month.
The jewelleries comprise 12,000 items including 14 tiaras, which could have a street value of almost RM880 million. The RM440 million jewellery estimate is based on the diamond, gemstone and gold values without taking into account the craftsmanship and other related costs.
Cash amounting to RM116.7 million in 26 currencies were also seized as the authorities intensify the investigation into 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) over allegations of fund misappropriation. 1MDB, the brainchild of the former prime minister (PM), is now one of the country’s largest and most wide-ranging commercial and criminal investigations by the authorities.
Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) director Datuk Seri Amar Singh Ishar Singh said the police took more than a month to ascertain the value of the seized goods due to the sheer number of items.
He said the 12,000 jewelleries worth RM440 million comprise 1,400 necklaces, 2,200 rings, 2,100 bangles, 2,800 pairs of earrings, 1,600 brooches and 14 tiaras.
“This is the biggest seizure in Malaysian history,” he said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Amar Singh said the police had to take three days to calculate the cash with the assistance of 22 officers from Bank Negara Malaysia and six counting machines.
The police also took 36 days and teams involving 150 officers to determine the value of the cash and goods seized from various premises which were identified to be connected to the former PM.
“Eight special teams comprising experts and officers were involved in the calculation process, involving 150 personnel,” said Amar Singh.
He said 567 handbags of various brands including Hermes, Prada, Versace and Chanel were seized.
The 272 pieces of Hermes bags had been valued at RM51.3 million, putting the average price for each item at RM187,500, or almost 32 times the median monthly income of Malaysians in 2016.
One of the make, the Bijan, is only available custom-made by order and is not available for the mass market.
The 423 watches — Rolex, Chopard and Richard Mille among the brands — had been valued at RM78 million.
Amar Singh said Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor will be questioned by the police soon.
He also said investigations into all the goods and cash seized are being conducted under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.
The CCID director said no one has stepped up to the police to claim that the seized cash and items were theirs.
Last month, it was reported that Umno had wanted the police to return the money seized from the raids, claiming that the funds were being transferred to the new leader- ship following Najib’s resignation as the head of the party.
In an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini yesterday, Najib said the valuation of the items, particularly jewellery, seized from residences linked to him are subjective and unrealistic.
“It depends on the source of the stones, it depends when they were gifted or when they were purchased. Valuation can tend to differ.
“So, let us not get too excited about it. Let us look at the items, every single item, and we hope to have a chance to examine these items.
“And then we can come to a conclusion on the source of the items and get an explanation on the items seized by the police,” he told Malaysiakini at the news portal’s office in Petaling Jaya.
The portal also reported Najib as saying that he had accumulated many of those items over “decades” as gifts from foreign leaders and personal friends, adding that it is not illegal to receive them.
Investigations into 1MDB dealings are also being carried out by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
A special task force has also been set up to probe the development fund.
Investigations into the fund’s massive web of disguised legitimate transfers are also ongoing in no less than six countries.
Investigations abroad over 1MDB’s transactions saw a few banks’ licences revoked for failing to uphold compliance and infringements under money laundering laws.
The US Department of Justice had also previously filed civil lawsuits to seize nearly US$2 billion (RM8.06 billion) assets — including a private jet, luxury homes and paint- ings — believed to have been bought by parties linked to the fund.
The Malaysian authorities have also put out a list of wanted individuals including businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, to assist in the investigation.
This week, a former aide to Najib was remanded seven days to assist the MACC in the 1MDB investigation.
The 42-year-old former PM’s special officer is the first person to be remanded over 1MDB probe. More arrests are expected, especially those who are related to the 1MDB money trail.