KUALA LUMPUR: Rosmah Mansor amassed hundreds of expensive Hermes Birkin handbags and diamond jewellery when her husband Najib Razak was Malaysia’s prime minister.
Now, Rosmah faces the prospect of joining him in jail for corruption after the Kuala Lumpur High Court sentenced her to 10 years in prison and a record US$216 million fine for soliciting and receiving bribes to help a company secure a contract from her husband’s administration.
Rosmah is out on bail but if she loses appeals in two higher courts, she will be put behind bars, ending her million-dollar shopping sprees.
The 70-year-old, seen as a powerful figure behind Najib, is widely scorned in Malaysia for her extravagant lifestyle and penchant for Birkin bags – which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece.
Police found 12,000 individual items of jewellery, 567 luxury handbags, 423 watches and US$26 million in cash at properties linked to the couple after Najib’s unexpected defeat in the 2018 elections, when voters showed their disgust over a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Najib last week began a 12-year jail sentence, after losing an appeal in the first of several cases brought against him over 1MDB. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Rosmah has been dogged by questions over her outsized role in the Najib administration and the source of her wealth.
“By herself, she occupied no official position. However, she wielded considerable influence by reason of her overbearing nature,” prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram said at the start of Rosmah’s trial in 2020 for seeking bribes over a US$279 million solar power supply contract.
Rosmah described those allegations as character assassination and pleaded not guilty to all charges against her.
Prosecutors say Rosmah sought a bribe of RM187.5 million (US$41.85 million) and received RM6.5 million from an official of the company that won the solar project. Part of it was delivered in two bags filled with cash at the couple’s residence, they say.
Rosmah also faces money laundering and tax evasion charges in a separate case.