A person passes in front of the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Aug 25, 2022. (VINCENT THIAN / AP)
KUALA LUMPUR- A Malaysian court on Monday struck down a government bid to forfeit millions of dollars in luxury goods seized from jailed ex-premier Najib Razak, finding insufficient evidence linking the assets to unlawful activities, a lawyer for Najib said.
Najib was voted out in 2018 amid public anger over his alleged involvement in a multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). He is currently serving a 12-year jail sentence after being found guilty in a 1MDB-linked corruption case.
Mohamed Shafee Abdullah, a lawyer for Najib, maintained the items were gifts, while the cash belonged to Najib's political party. Some 114 million ringgit ($24.86 million) was returned to Najib last year after the court dismissed a separate forfeiture bid on the seized cash
Following his election loss, police seized cash and assets including handbags and jewelry worth nearly $300 million in raids on several properties linked to Najib.
The former prime minister, who has consistently denied wrongdoing, has claimed that most of the items were gifts.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court on Monday dismissed the government's bid to forfeit more than 2,000 pieces of jewelry, luxury watches, and handbags, which will now be returned to Najib and his family, lawyer Mohamed Shafee Abdullah told reporters.
"It has got nothing to do with 1MDB," Mohamed Shafee said. "The court threw it out because there is not an iota of evidence that showed that the money was the illegally obtained proceeds of a crime."
Mohamed Shafee maintained the items were gifts, while the cash belonged to Najib's political party. Some 114 million ringgit ($24.86 million) was returned to Najib last year after the court dismissed a separate forfeiture bid on the seized cash.
The Attorney General's office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The court's decision comes just days before a general election that could see Najib's coalition Barisan Nasional voted back into government.
The alliance made its way back into power last year under Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, after two previous administrations collapsed amid political turmoil.