Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says he expects charges against former premier Najib Razak soon over the alleged embezzlement of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.
Najib told the media the jewellery and other valuables seized from 12 properties linked to him were mostly gifts and had been given a grossly inflated value.
Police estimated the value of cash, jewellery, watches and handbags at more than US$273 million, saying it was the biggest in Malaysian history.
Najib and his wife have been barred from leaving the country and have been interviewed by corruption investigators.
The couple deny any wrongdoing.
The police said 12,000 pieces of jewellery, including 2,200 rings, 1,400 necklaces, 2,100 bracelets, 2,800 pairs of earrings, 1,600 brooches and 14 tiaras, 567 handbags, 423 watches and 234 sunglasses were seized.
Najib said the estimate was based on current prices which was misleading as the items were gifts given over decades.
“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,” Najib said, adding that the valuation “appears to be done with a view for political vengeance and political attack on my family”.
He said it was “crazy” to think that he would have approved the use of public investments to buy yachts and paintings.
Najib said there was no embezzlement of funds in other organisations where he had roles.
“I have been in public service for so long and I have a sterling record. And it goes to show, if I was the final authority on all this, I would never have approved this.
“It doesn’t make sense. Why would I as prime minister approve public funds to buy yachts and paintings? It is just crazy.
“It is something which in my wildest dreams, I would never, ever approve or condone,” he told Malaysiakini.
He claimed a US$841,000 Rolex Daytona watch was a gift from a West-Asian minister who visited Malaysia in March.
The new-former leader, Mahathir, said investigators were still working to compile evidence on the case.
“Many have been asking why no action has been taken after so long.”
The 92-year-old said investigators also needed to uncover the paper trail and prove the money came from 1MDB.
“I think soon. To bring such a case to court, we need to find sufficient evidence that will stand up in court,” he said during a visit to Jakarta.
Handbags and jewellery were popular in Najib’s family. Picture credit: YouTube