Najib's wife Rosmah grilled for over 3 hours in graft claims

PHOTO: AFP

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia - The wife of Malaysia's ousted prime minister Najib Razak was on Tuesday questioned for more than three hours by the nation's anti-corruption agency over a massive financial scandal involving a state sovereign wealth fund.

The spotlight is now on Rosmah Mansor after police last month raided two condominiums linked to Najib and his family as part of an investigation into his role in the 1MDB scandal - seizing bags of cash, jewellery and hundreds of designer handbags.

Rosmah, 66, is widely reviled in Malaysia for her reported luxurious tastes and imperious manner. She last month issued a statement lashing out at media coverage of the police raids, calling them a "premature public trial".

Known for her love of luxury clothes and handbags, Rosmah arrived for questioning in a three-car convoy.

Following her departure from the agency headquarters, her lawyers said anti-graft investigators had completed recording her statement after a session lasting over three hours during which she gave her "utmost co-operation".

The nature of the questioning was not made public.

But Abdul Razak Idris, former investigations and intelligence director at the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), earlier told AFP that Rosmah would likely "be asked to reveal her bank accounts and explain about the source of the cash and jewellery found by police in two condominiums recently." Billions of dollars were allegedly stolen from the 1MDB fund - founded by Najib - in a sophisticated fraud that stretched from Singapore to Switzerland, with the money used to buy items ranging from Picasso artworks to high-end real estate.

Both Najib and the fund have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Malaysian police search places linked to ousted PM Najib

  • The cash and items seized from the six residences linked to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak amounted to between RM900 million (S$304 million) and RM1.1 billion, say the police.
  • He said that more than 12,000 pieces of jewellery - comprising 2,200 rings, 1,400 necklaces, 2,100 bracelets, 2,800 pairs of earrings,1,600 brooches and 14 tiaras were seized.
  • He added that this was the biggest seizure in Malaysian history.
  • Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor arrived at the headquarters of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to have her statement recorded in connection with a suspicious transfer of about $10.6 million (S$14.2 million) from the former 1MDB unit SRC International.
  • The sum is just a fraction of the billions of dollars allegedly siphoned from 1MDB, the state fund that Najib set up, in a scandal that dogged the last three years of his near-decade-long rule and was a key reason why he was voted out in a May 9 election.
  • M. Puravalen, a lawyer acting for Najib and Rosmah in connection with the SRC investigations, told Reuters on Tuesday he had "ceased acting" for Najib and Rosmah.
  • He said a second lawyer, Yusof Zainal Abideen, had also quit.
  • Puravalen, Abideen and other members of their legal team were reported to have walked out because they failed to reach common ground with Najib on several issues.
  • Najib has already made a series of statements to anti-graft investigators
  • but attention has shifted to his wife after police discovered hundreds of luxury handbags and a stash of jewelry and cash during raids on apartments linked to Najib and his family.
  • Malaysian police have seized 284 boxes filled with designer handbags, watches, jewellery and cash in various currencies from three luxury condominiums.
  • Comm Amar said the designer handbags were of various brands including Louis Vuitton and Birkin bags from Hermes.
  • He added that it was impossible for police to estimate the value of the items seized because there were just too many items and cash seized.
  • He also said that the apartment was not owned by Najib but a "Tan Sri".
  • Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) director Comm Datuk Seri Amar Singh, who led the raids at Pavilion Residences here said this was part of its investigations into 1MDB.
  • This follows a police check of six locations linked to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak here and in Putrajaya, including the Prime Minister's Office, his official residence as well as four other residences.
  • When asked whether Najib would be arrested, he said: "There is no indication that they (the police) will do it."
  • He said Najib and his family were cooperative with police. "They (the police) also acted professionally," he said.

LUXURY-LOVING

Rosmah spent nearly five hours in the building before leaving in a silver Mercedes Benz.

"Our client will extend further co-operation as and when sought by the agency," lawyer K. Kumarendran told gathered media in a prepared statement.

Former prime minister Najib has seen a swift fall from grace since he was defeated by a reformist coalition led by his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad, in elections last month.

Voter anger at claims of corruption tied to Najib and a rise in living costs were among major factors in the shocking defeat of the ruling coalition, which had been in power for over six decades.

Najib himself was questioned by anti-graft officers twice last month. Both he and his wife have been banned from leaving the country.

The luxury-loving Rosmah is often compared with Imelda Marcos, who left behind more than a thousand pairs of shoes after her husband, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, was ousted in 1986.

In 2015, Rosmah told a public gathering that she paid 1,200 ringgit (S$402) to colour her hair, angering Malaysians as the minimum wage was then just 900 ringgit a month.

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