Malaysia police seize cash and luxury goods in Najib-linked raids

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Police remove items from Najib Razak's residence in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (18 May 2018) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Luxury handbags from Birkin, Hermes and Louis Vuitton were among the items seized

Police in Malaysia say they have seized hundreds of boxes of luxury items and handbags full of foreign currency from properties linked to ex-PM Najib Razak.

The raids on properties across the capital, Kuala Lumpur, were related to investigations into state development fund 1MDB, they said.

Corruption claims against 1MDB were a major cause of Mr Najib’s election loss to his former ally, Mahathir Mohammad.

Billions of dollars are unaccounted for from the fund, which Mr Najib set up.

Mr Najib himself was alleged to have pocketed $700m (£517m), which he has always denied.

He has been cleared by Malaysian authorities but is being investigated by several other countries.

Mr Mahathir has said he is considering reopening the case and that he believes the missing money can be recovered. He has banned Mr Najib from leaving the country.

The police raids on Mr Najib’s office, private residence and several other properties linked to him in an upmarket area of the capital have been going on for several days, in the full view of the media.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The items have been carried away by police in front of crowds of onlookers

At one point a locksmith was brought in to open a safe removed from Mr Najib’s home.

On Friday, the head of the police commercial crime investigation unit, Amar Singh, told reporters the items removed included “284 boxes containing designer handbags”.

“Our personnel checked these bags and discovered various currencies including Malaysian Ringgit, US dollars, watches and jewellery in 72 bags.

“Exactly how much jewellery, I would not be able to say, because we know that we confiscated bags containing jewellery and the amount of jewellery is rather big,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

He told reporters the handbags included luxury brands like Hermes, Birkin and Louis Vuitton.

Mr Najib’s lawyer has complained that the raids amount to “unwarranted harassment” which is causing “anguish” to Mr Najib’s family and other residents.

He said the items seized “would seem of insignificant value” and that the process “casts a bad image of my client.”

What’s happened since the election?

Image copyright Reuters

Quick recap of Malaysian election

What is the 1MDB corruption scandal?

Image copyright AFP

1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was meant to turn Kuala Lumpur into a financial hub and boost the economy through strategic investments.

But it started to attract negative attention in early 2015 after it missed payments for some of the $11bn it owed to banks and bondholders.

Then the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported it had seen a paper trail that allegedly traced close to $700m from the fund to Mr Najib’s personal bank accounts.

Mr Najib has consistently denied taking money from 1MDB or any public funds.

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