Rosmah Mansor (R), Malaysia’s former first lady who was found guilty of graft on Thursday, has been widely mocked in the past over her reported taste for luxury – Copyright AFP/File Mohd RASFAN
Rosmah Mansor, Malaysia’s former first lady who was found guilty of graft on Thursday, has been widely mocked in the past over her reported taste for luxury, and is routinely portrayed as being out of touch with ordinary citizens.
Her conviction by the High Court came just nine days after her husband Najib Razak, Malaysia’s former premier, began serving a 12-year jail term for offences linked to the multibillion-dollar 1MDB financial scandal.
Rosmah was sentenced to 10 years in prison and given a $216 million fine, but will not go to jail yet, as there is likely to be a lengthy appeals process.
Cartoonists have portrayed the glamorous collector of Hermes handbags alongside one-time Philippines first lady and renowned shoe enthusiast Imelda Marcos — a big-spending woman who for years was a lightning rod for anger in her country over alleged corruption.
Here is a brief look at Rosmah’s time in the public eye:
– Humble origins to lofty perch –
Born on December 10, 1951, Rosmah was the only child of a Malay school headmaster and his teacher wife in southern Negeri Sembilan state.
In 1987, she married Najib Razak, with whom she had two children. It was a second marriage for both of them.
Najib became prime minister in 2009, and Rosmah made headlines two years later for the establishment of a new unit under the prime minister’s office known as “FLOM”, an acronym for First Lady of Malaysia.
The full-fledged department, which set critics’ tongues wagging, was tasked with handling Rosmah’s operational needs.
One angry writer for the news portal Malaysia Today asked at the time: “What is she trying to do… run the country?”
– Handbag hoard –
Rosmah has reportedly accumulated an enormous collection of luxury handbags, and is said to shop at Harrods in London, Chanel in Hawaii, Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and numerous jewellers in Hong Kong.
Her love for Hermes Birkin bags came to light after 2018 raids in which police confiscated more than 500 handbags and 12,000 pieces of jewellery estimated to be worth $270 million.
Police described the haul as the biggest in Malaysia’s history. The raids targeted 12 locations, including Najib’s family home and apartments at a high-end Kuala Lumpur condominium, as part of the probe into a criminal breach of trust involving the 1MDB state fund.
But Najib maintained that the items seized were gifts.
– Rare diamonds –
US investigators say Najib’s associates stole and laundered $4.5 billion from the 1MDB fund between 2009 and 2014, some of which landed in Najib’s bank account.
They said $27.3 million was used to buy a rare diamond necklace for Rosmah.
In 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that Rosmah had racked up at least $6 million in credit card charges, despite having no known source of income beyond her husband’s salary.
Rosmah once publicly complained about having to pay 1,200 ringgit ($268) to get her hair dyed, at a time when Malaysia’s minimum wage was 900 ringgit a month.