Malaysia ex-leader Najib says 'missing' $27m diamond was gifted by UAE prince in heated interview

Malaysia ex-leader Najib says 'missing' $27m diamond was gifted by UAE prince in heated interview
3 min read
28 October, 2018
Scandal-stricken former PM Najib Razak has said that a 22-carat diamond sought by the US Department of Justice was given to him as a gift from Emirati royalty.

In a heated interview broadcast on Friday former Malaysian leader Najib Razak said that a 22-carat diamond pendant sought by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) was a gift from Emirati prince Sheikh Mansour.

Najib told al-Jazeera that the brother of the United Arab Emirates' Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed gave the now missing item to him as a gift to his wife.

"We know that Jho Low was a close associate of Sheikh Mansour," Najib said referring to Low Taek Jho, a Malaysian financier and fugitive wanted in connection to a multi-billion dollar sovereign wealth fund scandal.

"It's a matter of dispute what happened to the pink diamond. So let’s not jump to conclusions," he added.

Najib, who was ousted in Malaysia's May elections, is currently facing 38 charges related to state funds that were allegedly siphoned away from the country's 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign wealth fund.

The most recent charges levelled against Najib earlier this week relate to a $1.2 billion payment made from 1MDB to Abu Dhabi-based wealth fund International Petroleum Company (IPIC). Sheikh Mansour currently serves as IPIC's chairman.

"We didn't know, as far as we were concerned it was a gift from Sheikh Mansour who would know where it came from and who paid for it. We wouldn’t know! We did not know the value of the present," the former prime minister said.

Najib was also pressed on properties allegedly acquired from state funds, as well as his step son's funding of the Wolf of Wall Street movie. In March, the company behind the 2013 film agreed to pay the United States government $60 million as part of the DoJ's efforts to seize assets allegedly bought with stolen Malaysian money.

"Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed told him in my presence that he was going to invest in his movies. We assumed that whatever investment that is going to come from Abu Dhabi to fund it would be a loan," Najib said.

"And my stepson was prepared to pay back every single cent that was given to him as a loan," he added.

The hour-long grilling by 101 East reporter Mary Ann Jolley saw the scandal-stricken politician lose his cool several times, including by once getting up and attempting to leave.

When pressed on a $628 million payment made into his personal bank account, Najib said he did not verify the source as he assumed it was a donation from Saudi Arabia.

"The question is when I received the funds, was I aware of the source of the money... or whether the source of the money is in dispute as to who owns the funds. Certainly in my capacity I would not have access to banking knowledge."

The former Barisan Nasional coalition leader has long claimed that the funds were given by the Saudi royal family to prevent the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 from spreading into the wider Muslim world.

The 1MDB scandal had a marked impact on Malaysia's political landscape, with the public voting in May to change the country's ruling party for the first time since independence in 1957.

If convicted, Najib faces over 200 years in prison time and tens of millions of dollars in fines.

He later apologised for his outburst during the al-Jazeera interview, saying that his mind was preoccupied with the questioning of his family by police.