Malaysia's luxury-loving former first lady laments 'trying times'


Kuala Lumpur (AFP)

Malaysia's unpopular former first lady on Saturday lamented the "trying times" since her husband Najib Razak's ouster from power, in a plea for public sympathy just a day after police seized a huge trove of cash, jewels and designer handbags linked to the couple.

Rosmah Mansor, who is widely reviled for her reported luxurious tastes and tone-deaf attitude towards the struggles of ordinary Malaysians, issued a statement lashing out at the police raids, complaining that news of them amounted to a "premature public trial".

The former first couple's world has been turned upside down after Najib's long-ruling political machine suffered a shock defeat in May 9 elections.

Najib has been barred from leaving the country pending investigations into allegations that he, his family and cronies looted billions in state money. He is widely expected to face criminal charges.

"Despite the overwhelmingly trying times afflicted upon us, we have, and will continue facilitating, any inquiry, and avail ourselves to any requesting authorities," Rosmah said in a statement issued by her attorneys.

But she complained about "the seemingly compromised inquiry process, whereby a series of leaks pertaining to the probe has made its way into social media spheres, in real time".

Rosmah said she was referring to "the alleged items confiscated," but did not elaborate.

Rosmah said authorities should "observe the rule of law and due process, to avoid a premature public trial" and not leak information to "social media trolls".

Her call for sympathy is likely to fall on more than a few deaf ears.

Malaysian police said Friday they had seized 72 suitcases stuffed with cash, watches and jewellery, as well as 284 boxes containing Hermes, Birkin and Louis Vuitton handbags, in raids on properties linked to Najib.

Rosmah, 66, is widely mocked for her imperious manner and reports of multi-million-dollar jewellery purchases and a vast supply of designer handbags that has earned comparisons to the famed shoe collection of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos.

Among other missteps, Rosmah complained in 2015 about the 1,200 ringgit ($300) house calls from stylists required to keep her pronounced mane of hair dyed black.

Malaysia's minimum monthly wage at the time was 900 ringgit.

The couple's downfall has sparked glee on Malaysian social media, including viral pics of a dishevelled-looking Najib and Rosmah dozing in chairs at their home early Thursday as police conducted an overnight search.