Asia Minute: Malaysia and the Politics of Handbags

May 18, 2018

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak
Credit en.kremlin.ru via CC

Malaysia has had one of the most dramatic shifts of leadership since the nation’s creation. While the new administration will take some time to put together, authorities are wasting no time investigating the former prime minister. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

In Malaysia, the mighty truly have fallen.

A little more than a week ago, Najib Razak was prime minister of Malaysia — leading a powerful political faction. Then he lost the election.

Over the weekend, he was barred from leaving the country. On Thursday, police searched his house, and have now raided six locations since Wednesday — looking for evidence of criminal wrongdoing and corruption.

The police search included three apartments in a condominium owned by Najib’s family.

Singapore’s Straits Times reports police took away 72 bags filled with jewelry, watches and cash. As well as a money-counting machine.

And then there are the handbags, which may acquire a symbolic power similar to the shoes of Imelda Marcos. When Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos left their palace in Manila, she famously left behind more than 2,700 pairs of shoes.

Birkin Bag
Credit www.forwester.com / Wikimedia Commons

The wife of the former Malaysian Prime Minister has a taste for high-end handbags, and specifically Birkin Bags by Hermes — which can go for between 12,000 and 300,000 U.S. dollars apiece.

Police told reporters they carried out 284 boxes of luxury handbags — from just one of those residences.