Malaysia's government fails bid to forfeit luxury goods linked to Najib, Rosmah
The court's decision comes just days before a general election that could see Najib's coalition Barisan Nasional voted back into government.
KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian court on Monday (Nov 14) struck down a government bid to forfeit millions of dollars in luxury goods seized from jailed former prime minister Najib Razak, finding insufficient evidence linking the assets to unlawful activities, a lawyer for Najib said.
The items were previously confiscated from premises belonging to Obyu Holdings, a company purportedly owned by Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor.
The luxury goods - including 2,435 pieces of jewellery, seven luxury watches and 29 designer handbags worth RM80 million (US$17.4 million) - were seized by police at Pavilion Residences in Kuala Lumpur on May 17, 2018.
Najib was voted out in 2018 amid public anger over his alleged involvement in a multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). He is currently serving a 12-year jail sentence after being found guilty in a 1MDB-linked corruption case.
Following his election loss, police seized cash and assets including handbags and jewellery worth nearly US$300 million in a string of raids on several properties linked to Najib.
The former prime minister, who has consistently denied wrongdoing, has claimed that most of the items were gifts.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court on Monday dismissed the government's bid to forfeit more than 2,000 pieces of jewellery, luxury watches, and handbags, which will now be returned to Najib and his family, lawyer Mohamed Shafee Abdullah told reporters.
"It has got nothing to do with 1MDB," Mohamed Shafee said. "The court threw it out because there is not an iota of evidence that showed that the money was the illegally obtained proceeds of a crime."
Mohamed Shafee maintained the items were gifts, while the cash belonged to Najib's political party. About RM114 million (US$24.86 million) was returned to Najib last year after the court dismissed a separate forfeiture bid on the seized cash.
The Attorney General's office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The alliance made its way back into power last year under Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, after two previous administrations collapsed amid political turmoil.
During her husband’s tenure as prime minister of Malaysia, Rosmah amassed hundreds of Hermes Birkin handbags and diamond jewellery.
Police found 12,000 individual items of jewellery, 567 luxury handbags, 423 watches and US$26 million in cash at properties linked to the couple after Najib's unexpected defeat in 2018.
In September, Rosmah was sentenced to 10 years in jail and fined RM970 million after she was found guilty of corruption. She is currently out on bail but could serve jail time if she loses appeals in two higher courts.
She was charged with soliciting bribes from contractor Saidi Abang Samsudin so that his company could secure an RM1.25 billion government project to supply solar energy to 369 rural schools in Sarawak state.
Rosmah was also accused of receiving a total of RM6.5 million in bribes from Saidi at the prime minister’s official residence in Putrajaya and then later at her private residence in Kuala Lumpur between December 2016 and September 2017.