Items seized from ex-PM Najib to be sold off, says Malaysian minister

A photograph of seized items from a raid at premises linked to former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak is displayed during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, on June 27, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PUTRAJAYA - Luxury items such as jewellery and watches seized from properties linked to former Malaysian premier Najib Razak will be sold off by the government, said Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in an interview.

He told the Associated Press on Friday (June 29) that the government will "try to monetise whatever we can".

He did not say when such a sale would be carried out and how many items could be sold off.

Police jolted Malaysians this week when it said the items seized from six residential units linked to Datuk Seri Najib were valued at RM900 million and RM1.1 billion (S$304 million-S$371 million) - the biggest seizure made in the country's history.

The haul included cash seized from 35 bags that amounted to RM116.7 million in 26 currencies.

Of the 72 large luggage bags seized, 25 contained jewellery that included 1,400 necklaces, 2,200 rings, 2,100 bangles, 2,800 pairs of earrings, 1,600 brooches and 14 tiaras.

The police also seized 567 luxury handbags worth RM51.3 million from 37 brands, including Hermes, Prada, Chanel, Judith Leiber and Kwanpen. A custom Bijan bag was also found.

There were also 423 luxury watches from 100 brands including Rolex, Richard Mille and Chopard, worth RM78 million.

Mr Najib has said most of the items were gifts from dignitaries and foreign leaders, and some of these items were owned by his other family members.

He said on Thursday that his family had begun the legal process of claiming back these items.

The seizures were made as part of an ongoing investigation into state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The residences linked to Mr Najib that were raided were his family home in Taman Duta, three apartments at the Pavilion Residences condominium, an unused bungalow in Putrajaya and the official residence of the Prime Minister in Putrajaya.

Mr Najib said in a statement on Thursday: "We dispute the quantity and the valuation given in the press conference by the police since such valuation is subjective and is subject to when the gifts were given."

As most of the items were gifts accumulated over decades, the family is not aware of how much was paid by those who had gifted these items, he added.

"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," he said.

Malaysia's police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun on Thursday brushed aside claims that the valuation of the items was subjective and unrealistic.

"The valuation of the (luxury) items is based on the assessment of experts who know their true value," Inspector General of Police Fuzi said. "We were assisted by experts on the brands of items seized, and the police were not involved in determining the value of the goods."

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