Former prime minister Najib Razak and his wife were barred last week from leaving Malaysia in the wake of his stunning election loss, over fears that they may evade prosecution in a massive corruption scandal.
Then, police announced Friday that raids on properties linked to Najib had turned up 72 suitcases stuffed with jewels and cash. It took five trucks to haul away some of the belongings, because police also had to fit 284 boxes filled with designer handbags — including Birkin bags from Hermès, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Photos show police carrying out orange boxes, with labels reading “Paris, H Bag Gray Croco Skin Hermes” and “Switzerland, Bag Blue w/Diamonte Croc Skin, Hermes.”
“Exactly how much jewelry, I would not be able to say, because we know that we confiscated bags containing jewelry, and the number of jewelry is rather big,” Amar Singh, head of Malaysia's commercial crime investigation unit, told reporters on Friday.
Even before the raids, Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor, had a reputation for taking luxurious shopping trips abroad. The raids come as Malaysia's new government ramps up its investigation of corruption allegations against the couple.
U.S. investigators say that at least $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a government investment fund that Najib oversaw. Some of that missing money allegedly wound up in his personal account.
Last week's election not only forced Najib out but also unseated the ruling coalition for the first time in six decades.
The new government, led by 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, Najib's former mentor, has already created a special committee to speed up the probe. The police raids of Najib's family homes and other properties began Wednesday.
On Thursday, Najib's attorney, Harpal Singh Grewal, said that despite the seizure of some of the belongings, police did not find any incriminating documents. At one point, Grewal said, police drilled into a safe that he says no one had opened for 20 years because they had lost the key.
“The search conducted in the premises and the items seized thus far would seem of insignificant value, and the continued presence of police officers and the drilling of the old safe strongly suggest unwarranted harassment,” he said.