KUALA LUMPUR: Ousted Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said relatives and “third parties” have begun the legal process to reclaim valuables seized in police raids, insisting that most of the items were gifts.
Malaysian police on Wednesday said the items seized in the raids on various Najib-linked properties, including cash, jewellery and luxury handbags, are worth up to $273 million.
Police said the searches, part of investigations into scandal-hit sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, netted 12,000 pieces of jewellery, bags containing almost $30 million in cash across 26 different currencies, more than 400 watches worth $19.3 million, and other high-end designer goods.
Najib, whose Barisan Nasional coalition was ousted in elections last month, has been linked to the 1MDB scandal while his wife Rosmah Mansor has been widely criticised for her extravagant shopping sprees.
Allegations of corruption in connection with 1MDB were a major factor behind the shock election loss of Najib’s long-ruling coalition to a reformist alliance headed by former leader Mahathir Mohamad, 92.
In a statement issued Thursday, Najib insisted that most of the items seized were gifts from friends and foreign dignitaries, including royalty, during special occasions like official visits and birthdays.
“Some of the items seized belong to relatives and various third parties. They have now started the legal process to claim their items from the police,” Najib said.
He also disputed the quantity and the valuations on the items given by the police.
“Any valuation based on retail price and at current prices would be unrealistic, likely to be grossly inflated and will give a very distorted picture as these items were received as gifts over a period that spans decades,” he said.
He said a Rolex Daytona watch which the police said was worth 3.4 million ringgit ($842,000) was a gift from a Middle Eastern prince who visited Malaysia in March.
The police did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment but Inspector General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun was quoted in the Star newspaper on Friday as saying the valuations were made by industry experts.
“The estimation was not done based on our whims and fancies,” he said.
Najib and his cronies have been accused of plundering billions of dollars from the government-controlled 1MDB fund to buy everything from US real estate to artworks.
Najib and 1MDB deny any wrongdoing.
Mahathir has reopened investigations into 1MDB which were shut down by Najib, and has vowed the former leader will be charged.
Since their election loss, Najib and his wife have been questioned by anti-graft investigators and are banned from leaving Malaysia.
The US Justice Department, which is seeking to recover items allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB cash in America, estimates that $4.5 billion was looted from the fund.