At an anticorruption rally last month in Kuala Lumpur, hundreds of students, young professionals and other demonstrators took to the streets behind a cardboard caricature of a meticulously coiffed woman carrying a Hermès handbag, demanding an investigation into Ms. Rosmah’s finances.
Ms. Rosmah’s jewel-bedecked public appearances have long made her a polarizing figure in this relatively poor, Southeast Asian country. She is the only child of schoolteachers, hasn’t had a regular paying job in years and her husband, Prime Minister Najib Razak, is a longtime bureaucrat with an annual salary of $100,000.
Ms. Rosmah, 64 years old, says she has a habit of saving. “I have bought some jewelry and dresses with my own money. What is wrong with that?” she wrote in her 2013 autobiography.
But allegations that Mr. Najib received hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned between 2009 and 2015 from 1Malaysia Development Bhd., a state investment fund he set up, are bringing renewed scrutiny of her.
Extensive bank-transfer records reviewed by the Journal showed that large sums from 1MDB wound up in the prime minister’s personal accounts via intermediaries.
The records were also cited in a civil lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department in July seeking the seizure of more than $1 billion of assets from people connected to Mr. Najib. The lawsuit doesn’t name Mr. Najib, but a person with direct knowledge of the investigation said the “Malaysian Official 1” in the complaint is Mr. Najib.
Mr. Najib has denied wrongdoing. His attorney general, without releasing documentation, described the money as a legal political donation from Saudi Arabia, most of which he said was returned. The Saudis have offered only vague statements.
Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor outside the prime minister’s office after he was sworn in as prime minister in 2009. PHOTO: SAEED KHAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The Wall Street Journal reported this year, citing banking documents, that at least $1 million in purchases made by Ms. Rosmah at jewelry and fashion stores in Europe and the U.S. in 2014 were paid for by Mr. Najib using credit cards that drew on 1MDB funds. The couple declined to comment at the time.
New documents seen by the Journal show those expenses are part of at least $6 million in spending by Ms. Rosmah between 2008 and 2015 on clothing, shoes and jewelry from London’s Harrods department store, Saks Fifth Avenue of New York and elsewhere.
Ms. Rosmah hasn’t commented on that spending. Attempts to reach her and Mr. Najib for this article were unsuccessful.
The prime minister’s office last year said the first family’s spending was commensurate with Mr. Najib’s inheritance from his father, a former prime minister. His four brothers later denied their father had left a big estate, without giving details. Mr. Najib issued another statement describing his father as frugal and a man of integrity, without addressing the inheritance.