Nearly $30 million (Dh110.1 million) of funds stolen from scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was used to buy jewellery for the prime minister’s wife, including a rare 22-carat pink diamond set in a necklace, according to the latest filings by the US Justice Department in a civil lawsuit.
The filings lodged at the US District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday did not identify Prime Minister Najib Razzaq or his wife Rosmah Mansor by name, but said the jewellery purchases were for the wife of ‘Malaysian Official 1’.
Malaysian and US government sources have previously confirmed that ‘Malaysian Official 1’ refers to Najeeb.
The diamond necklace set alone cost $27.3 million, according to latest filings in a lawsuit that was launched in July last year.
The accusations will provide further ammunition for Najeeb’s political rivals, who often criticise his wife for lavish spending, and come at an awkward time for the Malaysian leader, as he had been expected to call a snap election later this year.
Rosmah’s aide did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The prime minister’s office, in a statement early on Friday, said it was “concerned by the unnecessary and gratuitous naming of certain matters and individuals that are only relevant to domestic political manipulation and interference.” Najeeb has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
The jewellery purchases were arranged by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, who was also accused of gifting DiCaprio a $3.2 million Picasso.
A spokesman for DiCaprio on Thursday said that the actor had begun proceedings to transfer ownership of the Picasso to the US government, having in July 2016 “initiated the return” of gifts he had received from financiers connected to the 1MDB case. Low, whose whereabouts are unknown, could not be reached for comment.
In an emailed statement through a representative, Low said the Justice Department’s actions were “a further example of global overreach in pursuit of a deeply flawed case.” “The US Department of Justice’s latest move continues its inappropriate efforts to seize assets despite not having proven that any improprieties have occurred,” the statement read.
Rasky Partners, a public relations firm that emailed his statement, could not be immediately reached by phone.
The lawsuits show the jewellery for Rosmah was bought with funds that passed through Najeeb’s account. The jewellery, like the Picasso painting, was purchased with funds traceable to diverted proceeds from a 2013 bond offering by 1MDB, according to the filings.
The diamond necklace was bought in 2013, just months after $680 million was transferred to the private bank account of Najib in Kuala Lumpur, the filings show. The necklace was purchased from New York jeweller Lorraine Schwartz, who has designed for Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Lopez and other stars of the entertainment world.