Rosmah Mansor (R), the former First Lady of Malaysia, who was found guilty of bribery on Thursday, has often been ridiculed in the past for her penchant for luxury – Copyright AFP/File Mohd RASFAN
Rosmah Mansor, the former first lady of Malaysia who was found guilty of bribery on Thursday, has often been ridiculed in the past for her penchant for luxury and is usually portrayed as having no connection with ordinary citizens.
Her High Court verdict comes just nine days after her husband Najib Razak, former Malaysian prime minister, began serving a 12-year prison sentence for crimes linked to the 1MDB multibillion-dollar financial scandal.
Rosmah was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $216 million fine, but will not go to jail yet as there is likely to be a lengthy appeal process.
The cartoonists depicted the glamorous Hermes handbag collector next to former Philippine First Lady and famous shoe aficionado Imelda Marcos, a big-spending woman who has been a lightning rod of anger in her country for years over alleged corruption.
Here is a brief overview of the time when Rosmakh attracted public attention:
– From humble origins to high perch –
Born on December 10, 1951, Rosma was the only child of a Malay headmaster and his teacher wife in the southern state of Negeri Sembilan.
In 1987, she married Najib Razak, with whom she had two children. For both it was the second marriage.
Najib became prime minister in 2009, and two years later, Rosmah made headlines with the creation of a new unit within the prime minister’s office known as “FLOM,” an acronym for the first lady of Malaysia.
A full-fledged department that kept critics talking was tasked with handling Rosmah’s operational needs.
One irate contributor to the Malaysia Today news portal asked at the time, “What is she trying to do…to run the country?”
– Treasure of handbags –
Rosmah has reportedly amassed a huge collection of luxury handbags and is said to be shopping at Harrods in London, Chanel in Hawaii, Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and numerous jewelry stores in Hong Kong.
Her love for Hermes Birkin bags came to light after the 2018 raids in which police confiscated more than 500 bags and 12,000 pieces of jewelry worth $270 million.
The police called the catch the largest in the history of Malaysia. The raids targeted 12 locations, including Najib’s family home and an apartment in a luxury condominium in Kuala Lumpur, as part of a criminal breach of trust investigation involving the state fund 1MDB.
But Najib claimed that the seized items were gifts.
– Rare diamonds –
US investigators say Najib’s associates stole and laundered $4.5 billion from the 1MDB fund between 2009 and 2014, some of which ended up in Najib’s bank account.
They said $27.3 million was used to buy a rare diamond necklace for Rosmah.
In 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that Rosma had saved up at least $6 million in credit card payments despite having no known source of income other than her husband’s salary.
Rosmah once complained publicly about having to pay RM1,200 (US$268) to dye her hair, while the minimum wage in Malaysia was RM900 a month.