Malaysian ex-PM Najib Razak's wife grilled for third time over graft

Rosmah Mansor is under the scanner in connection with the 1MDB scandal. 

Malaysian ex-PM Najib Razak's wife grilled for third time over graft

Kuala Lumpur: The wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Wednesday was being grilled by the anti-graft agency for the third time over a massive graft scandal involving the 1MDB state investment fund.

Rosmah Mansor smiled at reporters but didn't speak as she was escorted into the agency's building. Her presence at the agency for the second time in a week fueled speculation that she could soon face criminal charges like her husband.

At the same time Wednesday, Najib turned up at the police commercial crime office, where he was summoned to answer further questions relating to the 1MDB scandal. He dodged reporters waiting for him outside the building.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of money laundering, corruption, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust over the scandal and will face trial next year. Rosmah was first summoned by the agency on June 5 and again on Sept. 26, when she was questioned for nearly 13 hours.

Malaysia's anti-graft chief, Mohamad Shukri Abdull, said last week that the agency had completed its probe of Rosmah and had submitted its investigation report to the attorney general's office for further action. It's unclear why she was being questioned again. Local media have reported that she could face up to 20 charges.

Rosmah, 66, is widely reviled for her opulent lifestyle and penchant for expensive jewelry and designer Birkin bags that led to her being compared with former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos and her extravagant collection of shoes.

Police found hundreds of luxury handbags, jewellery and cash worth more than USD 266 million during raids on apartments linked to the family shortly after Najib's shocking electoral defeat in May. 

Seized were 567 handbags, 423 watches and 12,000 pieces of jewelry, including 1,400 necklaces, 2,200 rings, 2,800 pairs of earrings and 14 tiaras. Najib has said the items were mostly gifts to his family.

In a biography in 2013, Rosmah said it was common for a prime minister's wife to receive expensive jewellery and gifts. She also said she had earned millions of ringgit from her own music album, which wasn't released to the public but was bought by government ministers who were fans of her singing talent.

Najib set up the 1MDB fund when he took power in 2009, but it accumulated billions in debts and is being investigated in the US and several other countries. US investigators say Najib's associates stole and laundered USD 4.5 billion from the fund from 2009 to 2014, some of which landed in Najib's bank account. 

They say USD 27.3 million was used to buy a rare diamond necklace for Rosmah.

Public anger over the scandal eventually led to the ouster of Najib's long-ruling coalition in May 9 elections that ushered in the first change of power since Malaysia's independence from Britain in 1957.

New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations into 1MDB that were suppressed under Najib's rule. He has also banned the couple from leaving the country.

Police have said investigations show that USD 972 million was transferred into Najib's bank accounts from three companies linked to 1MDB. Najib, 65, has accused Mahathir's government of seeking political vengeance against him and his family.

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