About those luxury handbags, jewellery, cash and 1MDB...

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak gave his responses to questions surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and items found in homes linked to his family, in an interview with the Reuters news agency in Langkawi. Here are some of his answers.

LUXURY HANDBAGS

Nearly 300 boxes of designer handbags and dozens of bags filled with cash and jewellery were among the items taken away by police in raids on the properties last month. The items included Birkin handbags from the luxury goods maker Hermes.

Datuk Seri Najib said these were mostly gifts given to his wife Rosmah Mansor and daughter, and had nothing to do with 1MDB.

"Yes, these were gifts, particularly with my daughter's, they were tagged, they were actually labelled: when, by whom." He added that a lot of them were wedding presents.

Mr Najib said his son-in-law Daniyar Nazarbayev, the nephew of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, also gave as gifts many of the handbags to Datin Seri Rosmah.

"People might find it hard to understand, but my son-in-law, for example, he gets Birkin from his source, five or six at one go," he said. "His family has got some means, so it has nothing to do with 1MDB if it comes from Kazakhstan."

JEWELLERY

There were allegations of US$200 million (S$272 million) worth of jewellery - including a 22-carat pink diamond pendant and necklace - in the family's possession.

Mr Najib said this jewellery set was also meant to be a gift for his wife, but she never received it.

"And until today, we do not know... She says the item is not in her possession," Mr Najib said.

CASH HOARD

He said the RM114 million (S$38.7 million) in cash found at his family home was funds owned by Umno, of which he was president until he stepped down shortly after the general election.

1MDB AND JHO LOW

Mr Najib spoke at length about Mr Low Taek Jho, a Malaysian financier better known as Jho Low. US and Malaysian investigators have named Mr Low as a key figure who had benefited from 1MDB funds.

Mr Najib said he felt that Mr Low's connections in the Middle East, particularly with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, could be helpful in pulling in more investment to Malaysia from those places.

But he said that he had never instructed Mr Low to get involved in 1MDB and had no control over what he did.

"I didn't give him instructions, but he volunteered to do certain things, which he thought would help 1MDB. But whatever he did ultimately is the responsibility of the management and board."

Malaysia is seeking to arrest Mr Low for his involvement in the 1MDB scandal.

He described Mr Low and Mr Najib's stepson Riza Aziz as friends, but said he was not aware of any dealings involving 1MDB funds in Mr Riza's Hollywood production company, which produced The Wolf Of Wall Street, among other movies.

When asked if he was still in touch with Mr Low, Mr Najib said: "We have cut off communication again. I don't know where he is."

Mr Low's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2018, with the headline 'About those luxury handbags, jewellery, cash and 1MDB...'. Print Edition | Subscribe