21 May 2018
AP — In 10 days of dramatic political developments, none has transfixed Malaysians more than the sight of truckloads of orange boxes containing Hermes Birkin handbags and luggage filled with cash and jewelry being seized from apartments linked to former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, was known for her love of Birkin bags and her opulent lifestyle, but television footage of the police haul has Malaysia gasping with shock.
It is possibly the most sensational image of elite corruption in Asia in the three decades since former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos and her extravagant collection of designer shoes.
Thousands of Malaysians followed a livestream on social media of the police raid at an upscale condominium in Kuala Lumpur late Thursday that was part of a corruption and money-laundering investigation into the 1MDB state investment fund that Najib set up and is being investigated abroad.
Police said Friday they confiscated 284 handbags, mostly Birkins, and 72 suitcases containing cash, jewelry, watches and other valuable items that filled five police trucks from the condominium.
In addition, police seized dozens of other designer handbags, cash and other valuables from Najib’s house.
The labels on some of the boxes seen by The Associated Press described some of the bags as a “navy blue crocodile skin with diamond,” a “blue with diamonte” crocodile skin Hermes and a gray crocodile skin Hermes.
All appeared to be new and bought abroad, including in Paris and Switzerland in 2013 and 2015. Luxury publications say a Birkin can cost from $12,000 to more than $200,000.
Rosmah’s fetish for bags has been compared to Marcos’ collection of shoes. More than 1,200 pairs of designer shoes including gold-trimmed imports were found in the Philippine presidential palace after she and her dictator husband, President Ferdinand Marcos, fled a “people power” revolt that toppled the regime in 1986.
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