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Police to quiz Najib and wife

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Amar and fellow police officers display photos of items from raids during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yesterday. Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian police said yesterday they would soon question former prime minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor after finding nearly $275 million worth of jewellery, handbags, watches and other items at premises linked to the couple.

Authorities are investigating Najib as part of their probe into how billions of dollars went missing from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was founded by the former premier.

Since his shock election loss to Mahathir Mohamad in May, Najib has been barred from leaving the country, questioned by the anti-graft agency and has had his personal and family houses searched as part of the 1MDB probe.

Amar Singh, head of the police commercial crime division, said the retail value of the items seized from six properties linked to Najib was between 900 million ringgit and 1.1 billion ringgit ($224 million-$273 million).

“This is the biggest seizure in the Malaysian history,” Amar told a news conference.

He said more than 150 police officers and external experts took nearly a month to value the seized items.

Jewellery accounted for the biggest portion of the seizure – 12,000 pieces of jewellery valued at between 660 million to 880 million ringgit, Singh said. The single most expensive item was a diamond necklace worth at least 6.4 million ringgit.

Authorities also found 116.7 million ringgit in cash, slightly higher than previously disclosed. Singh said 22 central bank officials using six cash-counting machines needed three days to count the money.

Amar said police planned to take statements from Najib and Rosmah, on the ownership of the seized items.

Najib has long faced criticism from Malaysians for his family’s lavish spending.

A prime minister earns a fixed salary of 22,826.65 ringgit ($5,671.22) a month and cannot invest in businesses or stocks while in office. Najib earned an additional monthly salary of 16,000 ringgit as a member of parliament.

Malaysians reacted with disbelief on social media as the police listed the items and their estimated worth during a news conference broadcast on live television.

“This is madness!!!” Elsie Low said on Twitter.

The US Department of Justice has said a total of $4.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund.

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