‘Handbags and watches were gifts’

Court case: A file photo of Najib attending one of his appeal hearings. — Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here was told that the 263 handbags of various brands, 27 pairs of shoes as well as 10 pieces of luxury watches seized by police from the residence of Datuk Seri Najib Razak relating to the misappropriation of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds were gifts from friends and dignitaries.

Lawyer Iskandar Shah Ibrahim, who is representing Najib’s wife and daughter, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and Nooryana Najwa, respectively, also said there was no money trail to show that all the assets were from the misappropriation of 1MDB funds.

Based on an affidavit of 1MDB investigating officer Supt Foo Wei Min, the prosecution itself could not confirm if the handbags as well as shoes were gifts or acquired with wealth from illegal activities, Iskandar Shah said.

“The handbags confiscated were gifts from close friends including dignitaries, Datin Seri Rosmah’s in-laws, Nooryana’s mother-in-law as well as other unidentified people.

“We argued that the applicant (prosecution) could not identify or evaluate all branded handbags except Hermes bags.

“On the balance of probability, it is not impossible for Datin Seri Rosmah and Nooryana, who are the wife and daughter of the former prime minister, to accept them as gifts or make their own acquisition, ” he said yesterday when arguing in the proceedings of claim to forfeit the ownership of the items from Rosmah, Nooryana and 16 others.

On May 8,2019, the Attorney General’s Chambers filed a forfeiture notice on hundreds of items, including handbags and 27 vehicles seized from Najib, Rosmah, their three children as well as 13 individuals and companies linked to the 1MDB scandal.

Apart from those items, money amounting to more than RM18mil kept in several accounts in Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd, Al-Rajhi Bank Bhd, Malayan Banking Bhd, CIMB Bank Bhd, RHB Bank Bhd, Public Bank Bhd, AmBank Bhd and Hong Leong Bank Bhd were frozen between Aug 16,2018 and March 11,2019.

In the notice of forfeiture, the prosecution named Najib, Rosmah, Nor Ashman Razak (Najib’s son), Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz (Najib’s stepson), Nooryana, Mohd Kyizzad Mesran, Senijauhar Sdn Bhd, Aiman Ruslan, Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia, Yayasan Semesta, Yayasan Mustika Kasih, Rembulan Kembara Sdn Bhd, Goh Gaik Ewe, Roger Ng (former Goldman Sachs bank officer) and his wife Lim Hwee Bin, Kee Kok Thiam, Tan Vern Tact and Geh Choh Hun as the first to 18th respondents.

On the 27 pairs of shoes seized, Iskandar Shah argued that Supt Foo’s allegation in his affidavit stating that it was impossible for Nooryana to own the shoes was baseless as she had clearly disclosed her source of income and submitted valid evidence through her affidavit.

“In fact, Foo in his affidavit, did not make any evaluation to determine whether Nooryana could afford to buy or not; as such, there is a possibility that the shoes concerned were not from illegal activities.

“Foo’s affidavit also did not deny that the bags were gifts or giveaways, but at the same time, Foo puts the burden on Nooryana to prove it by submitting a purchase receipt or the like, ” he said.

Iskandar Shah added that the approach taken by Supt Foo was unfair because no trace of money was submitted or the testimony of witnesses who directly stated that the property involved was the result of illegal activities related to 1MDB funds.

Lawyer Azamuddin Aziz, who argued on behalf of Riza Shahriz and Nor Ashman, said there was no evidence of cash flow to show that 1MDB funds were used to buy 10 watch straps belonging to them.

“Foo, in his supporting affidavit, said Nor Ashman did not have an income tax file at all and thought in that situation, it was not possible for him to buy the watches.

“But Nor Ashman, in his affidavit in reply, said the four watch straps seized were given by his father and his friends.

“Riza Shahriz, on the other hand, said he had bought the six watch straps and had submitted the receipt even though it was still disputed by the applicant, ” Azamuddin said.

All the respondents were highly consistent in their statement that all the property confiscated was personal gifts and from a legitimate acquisition, and requested that the application for forfeiture of property be rejected, Azamuddin added.

Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan set June 18 for the prosecution to reply to the submissions. — Bernama

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