KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's former leader Najib Razak and his wife hit out at the media and police yesterday, after investigators seeking evidence of corruption were filmed seizing boxloads of jewellery, luxury handbags and cash.
Following a surprise victory in a general election on May 9, the new government led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has opened investigations into how billions of dollars disappeared from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund founded by Datuk Seri Najib.
Mr Najib, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, have been barred from leaving the country.
Items seized by police from Mr Najib's residence and other locations linked to the couple included 284 boxes of designer handbags, including prized Birkin handbags from Hermes. Dozens of the luxury bags were said to be filled with cash and jewellery.
Mr Najib's lawyer, Datuk Harpal Singh Grewal, told reporters waiting outside the house that the former prime minister and his family were "really very unhappy" that police had confiscated clothes and shoes belonging to his children.
"No attempt was made to verify whether these dresses, shoes, babies' clothes and all had anything to do with the investigations which are ongoing," he said.
In a separate statement, Mr Harpal said the police raid was carried out in a "cavalier and irresponsible manner".
"The police personnel helped themselves to food and chocolates in the refrigerator and further demanded that meals be prepared for them," he said, adding that Mr Najib will continue to cooperate with the authorities.
Responding to the allegations, Datuk Seri Amar Singh, director of police commercial crime investigations, asked that more details be provided and for the officers involved to be identified. He noted in his statement that such unprofessional conduct would not be tolerated and that stern actions would be taken if the allegations were proven true.
He added that the officers appointed to conduct the searches had been reminded to do so professionally and "accord utmost respect to the occupants, as these premises are occupied by the ex-prime minister of our country and his family".
Television and press reports of police carting away the family's personal belongings also raised objections from Mr Najib's wife, who said there were leaked pictures of the raids on social media.
"It is our hope that the authorities would observe the rule of law and due process, to avoid a premature public trial," Madam Rosmah's lawyers, Valen, Oh and Partners, said in a statement on her behalf.
"Enforcement agencies should not be feeding social media trolls, but observe and uphold strict professionalism at all times," it added.
Mr Amar said that all officers on the scene were not allowed to have their mobile phones with them, except for the commander and his deputy, and that all pictures and videos were taken by offi-cial photographers.
"As such, the police urge the relevant parties to provide details of the leaked photographs ... to verify if in fact the viral photographs come from the police or otherwise," he said.
The round-the-clock search at the couple's residence has prompted some public criticism, including from Mr Najib's political rivals who are now in government.
"As former victims of early-dawn police raids, I must stress my disagreement in ransacking any home at such an ungodly hour," said ruling coalition politician Nurul Izzah, the daughter of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim - a reformist who was released from jail after being given a full pardon on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, The Malay Mail reported that Mr Najib had lodged a police report on Friday claiming his life was at risk and asking to be placed under witness protection.
According to the news site, Mr Najib made the report at the Sentul police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, claiming there was a clear threat to his and his family members' lives linked to the 1MDB probe.
He said in the report that the jewellery, cash and personal belongings seized by the police in their operations were gifts from friends and cash donations meant for his coalition Barisan Nasional's election campaign.