Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, did not show up on the first day of her corruption trial on Monday, saying through her lawyer that she was too unwell to attend court.
The prosecution on Monday rejected Rosmah’s call for an adjournment of the trial, saying it was an “attempt” to avoid coming to court.
“Her only problem is I think she suffers from is an overdose of publicity and wealth, and these are all not good reasons for failure to show up,” lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram told the court, drawing giggles.
Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan adjourned the case to Wednesday
Rosmah’s long-rumoured extravagance was exposed when Najib lost the general election in 2018 amid widespread public anger over a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund, 1MDB.
After losing power – the first time the ruling party had been ousted since independence some 60 years ago – the authorities began investigating allegations of corruption surrounding the couple and police launched several raids on properties linked to them.
Malaysia watched agog as police wheeled out shopping trolleys piled with boxes including 567 designer handbags, 1,400 necklaces, 423 watches, 2,200 rings, 1,600 brooches and 14 tiaras belonging to Rosmah, 69.
The seized handbags included 272 from the French luxury goods firm, Hermes, estimated to be worth $13m. Bundles of cash in a variety of currencies were also seized. Najib, who is now on trial over his role in 1MDB, said most of the items were gifts.
While the self-styled former First Lady of Malaysia faces multiple money-laundering charges, Monday’s case related to bribes she allegedly received in connection with a 1.5 billion ringgit ($365m) project to provide solar energy to rural schools in Sarawak on the Malaysian part of Borneo.
She pleaded not guilty to the charges last year and was allowed bail.
The prosecution said that it had not been given notice that she was ill and unable to attend court.
“We regard this as attempt to avoid attending court,” said Sri Ram, arguing that her bail should be revoked.
“Unless she is examined by a government doctor, we cannot accept this … I think the unwillingness of her to attend court warrants her bail to be revoked and for her to be kept in prison because if she is kept in prison, she would be more willing to accept coming to court,” said Sri Ram.
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Rosmah’s defence lawyer, Jagjit Singh, expressed “shock” at the proposal to revoke her bail.
He told the court Rosmah was suffering from severe recurrent neck pain, dizziness and osteoarthritis to the knees. He also requested for her medical condition not to be read out in open court as “it would be picked up by the media”.
Jagjit said he had searched her symptoms on Google and Rosmah’s condition could be “life-threatening”, to which the judge, Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, replied: “Oh, Dr Google.”
The prosecution was dismissive of her medical issues.
“She (Rosmah) complained of dizziness when lying down in the wrong position. I suffer from that,” Sri Ram said.
“She is known to have cervical spondylosis and osteoarthritis of the knees for the past few years. I have both of those things,” he added.
Rosmah’s solar panel charges are the first to come to court.
Separately, she also faces 12 counts of money laundering and five counts of tax evasion. She has also pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Last month, she was in the headlines again when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) released audio recordings purportedly of phone conversations between her and her husband as the questions over 1MDB intensified.
In the recording, she could be heard berating her husband, shouting “Can I advise you something?” in a clip that spawned numerous memes and took Malaysian Twitter by storm.