Thousands were paid to maintain her online reputation and millions of dollars were pocketed through bribes.
Those were the allegations mentioned in court yesterday on the first day of Rosmah Mansor’s trial. The wife of Malaysia’s disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak is facing multiple charges of bribery, including accepting RM5 million (US$1.2 million) in exchange for helping a company win a solar energy project. Accusations against her surfaced amid a probe into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, appropriation scandal that has afflicted her husband.
The 68-year-old, famed for her Birkin bag collection, failed to prevent the media from covering the court case yesterday, exposing the testimony by key witness Rizal Mansor, who used to be her personal assistant, or special officer.
“She paid me RM100,000 cash every month to finance the operations of the cybertroopers,” Rizal, 45, was quoted as saying. His own graft charges were overturned after agreeing to testify against his former boss.
High court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan had rejected Rosmah’s application to ban media coverage of Rizal’s testimony at the Kuala Lumpur court, citing his belief in “freedom of the press.”
Rizal said that Rosmah had a personal team of people focusing on countering negative online sentiments about her, particularly related to her lavish lifestyle. Rizal, who worked for her from 2009 to 2018, said he was provided the funds to spend on this. He did not reveal the size of that team.
“Most of the negative news involving Rosmah centered around her expensive handbags and her daughter’s extravagant wedding,” Rizal told the court. The wedding reception for Rosmah’s daughter, Nooryana Najwa, in 2015, featured an elaborate flower display worth RM3 million (US$700,000).
Rosmah is accused of soliciting RM187.5 million worth of bribes from former Jepak Holdings managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin, accepting RM1.5 million bribe directly from him, and a separate RM5 million bribe through Rizal in exchange for helping the Sarawak-based solar company win a RM1.25 billion solar energy project.
Rizal said he was tasked to collect bribes from various individuals seeking government contracts, including Saidi. The RM5 million worth of bribery was delivered in two suitcases to Rosmah in 2016 at her home in Putrajaya, according to Rizal.
“I instructed Rosmah’s two butlers to carry both luggage bags that contained RM5 million in cash from my car to the inside of Rosmah’s house,” he said. The following year, Rizal said Saidi personally delivered another RM1.5 million to Rosmah at her bungalow on Jalan Langgak Duta.
The trial is expected to continue on Monday.
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This article, Of bribery and cybertroopers: Trial reveals what Rosmah Mansor spent her money on, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.