HONG KONG — The Malaysian authorities said Wednesday that they seized as much as $273 million worth of jewelry, purses and other valuables, including nearly $30 million in cash, from properties of former Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, who have been embroiled in a corruption scandal involving the theft of billions from a state fund.
The former first lady’s penchant for luxury goods has been widely discussed in Malaysia, but the announcement offered new details of the extent of the couple’s trove.
Amar Singh, head of the commercial crimes division of the Royal Malaysia Police, said it was the “biggest seizure in Malaysian history.”
He said that Mr. Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, would be called in for questioning soon to determine ownership of the goods. Last month the couple was barred from leaving the country. They have previously been questioned by anti-corruption investigators.
Among the items, seized in a series of raids in recent weeks, were 12,000 pieces of jewelry worth an estimated $109 million in the value of their precious metals and gemstones alone, Mr. Amar Singh said. Labor and other costs could double their worth, he said.
In addition, cash worth $29 million in 26 currencies was seized, he said. Simply counting the cash took three days for 22 officials using six currency-counting machines.
A value of about $19 million was placed on 423 watches, while 234 sunglasses valued at $93,000 were also seized.
During a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, officials held up photographs of some of the vast collection of goods being held. In addition to the watches, the stash includes 2,800 pairs of earrings, 2,200 rings, 2,100 bangles, 1,600 brooches, 1,400 necklaces and 14 tiaras.
The most valuable piece of jewelry was a chain of yellow and brown diamonds set in gold, worth about $1.5 million, Mr. Amar Singh said.
The repository of goods recalls the excesses of the former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda. While Ms. Marcos was known for her collection of shoes, Ms. Rosmah may be defined by her handbags.
The Hermes bags alone were valued at $12 million, while other purses — 37 brands were represented in the 567 confiscated, including Prada and a custom-made Bijan handbag — were still being appraised, Mr. Amar Singh said.
Mr. Najib said Wednesday that many of the items had been received as gifts, and he argued that their value had been inflated by the police.
“But what I do know is that over the years as head of the government, we have been gifted with a lot of items by foreign leaders as well as personal friends and I do know that under the law it is not illegal to receive gifts,” he told the independent news outlet Malaysiakini in an interview on Wednesday. “These gifts were accumulated over decades.”
He added that the cash included party campaign funds as well as “some of my own” money.
Allegations of extreme corruption fueled public anger, leading to a stunning defeat at the polls for Mr. Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organization, which ended its grip on power dating to Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.
Under Mr. Najib, at least $4.5 billion vanished from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, known as 1MDB, the state fund he founded and oversaw. The United States Justice Department says $731 million was deposited into Mr. Najib’s own accounts.
After his defeat Mr. Najib was succeeded as prime minister by Mahathir Mohamad, 92, who previously led the country from 1981 to 2003. Mr. Mahathir had aided Mr. Najib’s rise, but said during the campaign, “The biggest mistake that I have made in my life is choosing Najib.”
While he was prime minister, Mr. Najib was insulated from legal jeopardy. He was cleared of wrongdoing by the attorney general, and a report by the country’s Auditor General was classified.
After his ouster, that quickly changed. Mr. Najib and Ms. Rosmah were barred from leaving Malaysia after a leaked flight plan suggested they might flee to Indonesia. Police officers have been stationed on the street outside their home.
Mr. Mahathir has asserted that theft of public funds by the previous government goes far beyond 1MDB. In an interview this month with The New York Times he listed several government initiatives that had “been raped” under Mr. Najib.
“They have taken money,” he said. “Now they have lost the money.”
Mr. Mahathir told Reuters that investigators had compiled “almost a perfect case” into the main targets in the case. Mr. Najib has previously denied any wrongdoing.
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