263 branded handbags were “gifts for Rosmah and daughter”

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The 263 branded handbags seized in the 1MDB case were “gifts” to Rosmah Mansor and her daughter, the Kuala Lumpur High Court heard today.

The duo’s lawyer Iskandar Shah Ibrahim submitted this today during the hearing of the government’s suit to forfeit cash and assets, including branded handbags, allegedly linked to troubled sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Besides Rosmah and her daughter Nooryana Najwa Najib, the legal action also targets her husband and former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak as well as 15 other respondents.

Iskandar was acting for Rosmah and Nooryana during today’s hearing before judge Mohd Zaini Mazlan.

The respondents’ submissions want the court to deny the government’s legal bid to seize the various cash and items from them.

Iskandar contended that Rosmah and Nooryana had affirmed in their affidavits that the handbags were gifts to the duo in their capacities as wife and daughter of the then Malaysian prime minister Najib.

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The lawyer claimed that the prosecution failed to establish a link between the items and the funds from 1MDB because even the anti-money laundering investigating officer in the 1MDB case conceded that at least some of the handbags seized were gifts.

He was referring to the affidavit by 1MDB police investigating officer Superintendent Foo Wei Min, whose findings and testimony were relied on by the prosecution in numerous previous 1MDB-linked court cases.

Iskandar submitted that the prosecution failed to link any alleged misappropriation of funds from 1MDB to the purchase of the branded handbags in question.

“Especially these Hermes handbags could not be traced to be bought (with funds from 1MDB). These bags are not the bags that could be bought at normal shops,” Iskandar said.

“On a balance of probabilities, when Supt Foo said that the investigation found that the seized handbags were received as gifts and the second respondent (Rosmah) has also attested that they were gifts, then she has answered the applicant (prosecution),” Iskandar said.

The lawyer further submitted that it is reasonable for Nooryana to be able to afford some of the handbags, as she had earned money while working in various jobs in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong in the past.

Iskandar also contended that some of the seized handbags were wedding presents from the in-laws of her husband Daniyar Kessikbayev from Kazakhstan.

“The statement (from Nooryana’s affidavit among others) is the basis to show that the fifth respondent (Nooryana) could afford to buy the handbags in question (without using funds from 1MDB).

“The Hermes (handbags) are a large part of the wedding and engagement gifts, not just by her husband but also by the mother-in-law,” Iskandar said.

Meanwhile, in relation to submissions for another respondent, Najib’s son Nor Ashman Razak, his counsel Azamuddin Aziz contended that his client also received seized watches as gifts.

Azamamuddin claimed that the prosecution failed to show a 1MDB link for the watches, as Nor Ashman had attested in his affidavit that the watches were gifts from Najib as well as from a friend.

Nor Ashman is among the total of 18 respondents targeted in the current 1MDB-linked suit, with the prosecution seeking to forfeit several luxury watches seized from him.

Hearing before Zaini will resume on June 18, with the prosecution expected to reply to the submissions by the various respondents.

On May 8, 2019, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) filed the 1MDB-linked forfeiture suit against Najib and the 17 others comprising individuals and companies.

The legal action is over the seizure of hundreds of items, including luxury handbags and 27 vehicles from the 18 respondents.

In the 1MDB-linked forfeiture suit, Najib was named as the first respondent, followed by his wife Rosmah Mansor, stepson Riza Aziz, son Nor Ashman Razak, and daughter Nooryana Najwa as the second, third, fourth and fifth respondents respectively.

The others are Mohd Kyizzad Mesran, Senijauhar Sdn Bhd, Aiman Ruslan, Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia, Yayasan Semesta, Yayasan Mustika Kasih, Rembulan Kembara Sdn Bhd, Goh Gaik Ewe (the mother of Jho Low), former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng, lawyer Lim Hwee Bin, Kee Kok Thiam, Tan Vern Tact and Geh Choh Hun.

Kee, Tan and Geh are alleged associates of Jho Low, who is a key figure in the 1MDB matter.

Among the valuables seized on May 17, 2018, and on June 11, 2018, were 52 branded handbags, 10 watches and cash in different denominations – RM187,750 in old notes, RM21,150 in new notes, £320,500 in old notes, £2,700 in new notes, US$100, €20, S$40, 2,870,000 Sri Lankan rupees, 13,177.00 rupiahs, 376 hryvnias (the Ukrainian currency), 50 francs, 10 rands, 531 riyals, and 740 Philippine pesos.

Also seized on the same day were four branded watches, 171 high-end handbags and 27 pairs of shoes, while 40 luxury handbags were confiscated on June 11, 2018.

On Aug 2, 2018, some 27 Nissan Urvan vehicles were also seized by the authorities.