‘Billion Dollar Whale’ author says tycoon who gave Rosmah Birkin bags still wouldn’t expose her even after police raids

·4-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — A businessman who allegedly gifted luxury handbags to Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor refused to help expose the 1MDB global corruption scandal even after Malaysian police raided a condominium linked to her family, said Billion Dollar Whale author and journalist Tom Wright.

On Twitter, the former Wall Street Journal reporter, who was among the first to report internationally on the 1MDB scandal, said the businessman whose name was found written on a several boxes “stuffed with Birkins” he gave her and “was frantic” after the raids in 2018.

“I knew this businessman and had been on friendly terms with him. His wife, during a dinner at Joel Robuchon, at Resorts World in Singapore, had expressed grave doubts about Rosmah,” he tweeted, also sharing screenshots of his text messages with the unnamed businessman.

Wright said that he had hoped that the person would finally assist in his reporting of the scandal, but found him to instead be hostile even after the wake of Barisan Nasional’s shock defeat in the 2018 general election.

Rosmah’s husband, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had led the coalition into its only defeat in history.

“We got on the phone, and I have to say he exploded with an anger that I’ve never experienced as a journalist either before or since. I was shaking as I got off the phone.

“As I said, I’ve never seen such anger, and I’ve interviewed a failed Pakistani suicide bomber! Anyway, he was obviously very nervous about how his world was changing,” he said, adding that the businessman gave the Birkin bags to Rosmah in return for contracts, while his wife “clearly hated the situation”.

“She had whispered her disquiet to me when her husband went to the toilet. But everyone was locked into the graft,” Wright said, adding that the businessman had also threatened to lodge a police report against him if he continued to contact him, citing the “New Malaysia” at the time.

Wright said he was unsure why the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government then made it easier for the person to report him to the police but decided to move on.

“This story shows how a democratic wave in Malaysia in 2018 didn’t lead this businessman to open up, and help me to uncover more about Rosmah. In fact it led to the opposite.

“Under Najib and Rosmah, everyone was caught in this system, and when it collapsed everyone covered ass. His wife, and surely the businessman, knew it was corrupt. But what could they do,” he said, referring to Najib, who is now serving a 12-year prison sentence after failing in his final appeal against his conviction in his SRC International corruption case.

Wright said the businessman and his wife could have done a lot, or at least supported journalists to unravel facts after Rosmah was detained.

“Why didn’t he? Well, probably because he thought the winds would change direction and Najib — and Rosmah — would come back to power. Perhaps they will. Perhaps he’s smart.

“This businessman was just one among many. Why do you think $250 mln in luxury items were found in Rosmah’s apartments? 14 tiaras, 567 handbags (272 of them Hermes), 423 watches, 234 sunglasses, 12,000 items of jewelry (one necklace worth $1.6 mln).

“So, to sum up, dear readers, you’ll never guess the identity of the businessman. Could be any one of hundreds of people. You don’t get to QUARTER OF A BILLION DOLLARS in luxury items from a few corruptors,” he added.

Wright’s series of tweets comes on the heels of Rosmah’s conviction today, for which she was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment and a record fine of RM970 million after being found guilty of all charges in her corruption trial involving a RM1.25 billion solar hybrid energy project for 369 Sarawak schools.

The fine is five times the bribe amount, the maximum allowable under the Section 16 of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act with which she was charged.

However, High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan granted a stay of the sentence after Rosmah’s lawyers indicated that they would appeal.

He also allowed her previous bail of RM2 million to be extended pending the disposal of her appeal.