World

1MDB funds allegedly used to buy jewellery for Najib's wife

KUALA LUMPUR: Nearly US$30 million (S$41 million) of funds stolen from scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was used to buy jewellery for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak'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 in Los Angeles on Thursday did not identify Mr Najib or his wife, Rosmah Mansor, by name, but said the purchases were for the wife of Malaysian Official 1.

Malaysian and US government sources have previously confirmed that it refers to Mr Najib.

The diamond necklace set cost US$27.3 million, according to latest filings in a lawsuit that was launched in July last year.

Madam Rosmah's aide did not respond to requests for comment.

The jewellery purchases were arranged by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, who was also accused of gifting US actor Leonardo DiCaprio a US$3.2 million Picasso.

A spokesman for DiCaprio on Thursday said the actor had begun proceedings to transfer ownership of the Picasso to the US government, having in July last year "initiated the return" of gifts he had received from financiers connected to the 1MDB case.

Mr Low, whose whereabouts are unknown, could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuits show the jewellery for Madam Rosmah was bought with funds that passed through Mr Najib'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 necklace was purchased from New York jeweller Lorraine Schwartz, who has designed for stars including Beyonce Knowles and Jennifer Lopez.

Mr Low also arranged for the purchase of 27 pieces of jewellery - worth US$1.3 million - for Madam Rosmah in 2014. 
- REUTERS

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