Malaysia’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has stated in an interview with the Associated Press on Friday (29 June) that the Malaysian government will sell most of the huge stash of jewellery, handbags and luxury goods seized in 1MDB investigations from premises linked to former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
It was reported earlier that valuable items seized worth up to RM1.1 billion (S$372 million).
Mr Amar Singh, the director of Malaysia’s commercial crime investigation department said that luxury goods such as a RM6.4 million diamond necklace, 51.3 million ringgit worth of Hermes bags and more than 200 sunglasses valued at RM 374,000 ringgit were taken from five residences and an office linked to Mr Najib.
Meanwhile, Malaysians have reacted with disbelief on social media at the extensive stash that included 2,200 rings, some 1,400 necklaces, 14 tiaras and thousands of bracelets, earrings and brooches.
However, the former prime minister insisted that most of the items were gifts from foreign dignitaries over decades and said the police valuation was grossly inflated and appeared to be a political vengeance against his family.
Mr Lim told reporters during the interview, “We will try to monetise whatever we can, but bear in mind it is nothing compared to the amount that has been robbed from the state.”
Mr Lim said allegations that surfaced in 2015 that some US$700 million from 1MDB was channelled into Najib’s bank accounts were the “game changer” that prompted Dr Mahathir, 92, to work with former foes including himself and others who were jailed during Dr Mahathir’s first stint as leader.
He said, “I said no one is so stupid to put money into his own personal bank account especially if you are dealing with the prime minister. Who is stupid to do that. But when we discover that that is indeed the truth, we were shocked beyond belief.”
“Imagine if that amount was discovered or revealed in the United States, it would be mind boggling even for a country as wealthy as rich as the United States,” Lim said, adding that for a small country such as Malaysia, “it is completely out of this world.”
Mr Lim said that had Mr Najib’s political coalition won one more term in the recent general election, it would have “put Malaysia into a deeper black hole” as Mr Najib continues to be embroiled in the 1MBD scandal.
“Try to look at the glass half full, not half empty. Imagine if they had won another term, the glass would be empty, at least it is now half full. We can still do something about it, but if we wait for another term, nothing we do would help, so the ‘glass half full’ will allow us to rehabilitate our finances, to recuperate so that we can be reintegrated, to be a dynamic economy that Malaysia deserves to be,” he said.
Najib set up the 1MDB fund when he took power in 2009, however, it accumulated billions in debts.
New Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations into 1MDB that were stifled under Najib’s rule and barred Najib and his wife from leaving the country.
He told Reuters last week that Mr Najib was fully responsible for the 1MDB scandal and that authorities have “an almost perfect case” against the former leader.
Mr Najib had led the country for almost a decade. He explained three years ago that the nearly US$700 million transferred into his account had been a donation from an unnamed Saudi royal.
US investigators say Najib’s associates stole and laundered US$4.5 billion from the fund from 2009 to 2014, some of which landed in Najib’s bank account, saying that US$27.3 million was used to buy a rare diamond necklace for his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
Dr Mahathir said earlier on Friday morning that Mr Najib will be charged in court soon and that the authorities are investigating and gathering evidence on how billions of dollars went missing from 1MDB.
Other key figures involved in the 1MBD scandal include Mr Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor and Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, widely known as Jho Low.
According to the Wall Street Journal, several people who know Rosmah said her “pursuit of the trappings of wealth played a crucial part in pushing Najib’s administration deeper into graft, ultimately leading to the government’s downfall”.
However, she has denied this in a statement issued by her lawyers.
Earlier in June, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin also said that Malaysian authorities have sufficient information that Jho Low, is among the main criminals involved in the 1MBD saga.
Mr Lim recently revealed graft in some projects linked to 1MDB after opening up access to files in the Finance Ministry previously limited only to a top few, saying that he believed most of the mega scandals have been uncovered.
However, he said that there are many “mini 1MDB” scandals on a smaller scale that will be revealed over time.
Dr Mahathir is expected to hand over the baton to reformist leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim under an election pact after they agreed to conciliate after a two-decade feud.
Mr Lim noted that Anwar’s wife, who is currently the deputy prime minister, will step down at the time, adding, “It is a question of timing. We know who is the next prime minister.”