PETALING JAYA, June 28 — After the value of luxury items seized in police investigations on state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was revealed, comparisons to former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Marcos were inevitable.
In the 1980s, during the Marcoses two-decade rule, they made headlines for corruption and kleptocracy scandals, similar to the current controversies surrounding former Malaysian prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
Former Philippines First Lady Imelda was known for her colossal shoe collection and opulent spending, which eventually led to her and her husband’s exile.
Malaysian authorities said the total market value of luxury watches, jewellery, high-end handbags, and cash recently seized at properties linked to Najib amounted to a jaw-dropping RM1.1 billion.
The jewellery alone was worth between RM660 million to RM880 million.
Which country had the bigger loot? Find out in the face-off below.
Round 1: Jewellery
Two years ago, CNN reported that Imelda’s jewellery collection was worth approximately US$21 million (RM90 million today).
Some of the luxury items US Customs impounded in 1986 when the Marcos family fled to Hawaii:
― 150-carat Burmese ruby with diamond brooch valued at US$290,000 (RM672,000 today)
― 30-carat Bulgari diamond bracelet valued at US$1 million (RM9.3 million today)
― one tiara with Mabé pearl, diamonds and rubies valued at US$47,105 (RM282,997 today)
― a sapphire, ruby and diamond set comprised of a bracelet, a pair of earrings and one brooch consisting of sapphires, rubies, diamonds valued at US$1.5 million (RM56 million today)
― rare 25-carat pink diamond, worth approximately US$5 million (RM21.4 million)
Malaysian police seized:
― Yellow and gold necklace valued at RM6.4 million, which was the single most expensive item.
― Earrings — 2,800 set pieces
― Rings — 2,200 pieces
― Bangles — 2,100 pieces
― Brooches — 1,600 pieces
― Necklaces — 1,400 pieces
― Tiaras — 14 pieces
The winner: Malaysia. Fourteen tiaras against one is pretty hard to top. Plus the market value of the jewellery was estimated to exceed half a billion ringgit at between RM660 million and RM880 million.
Round 2: Bags and shoes
While Imelda was known for her colossal shoe collection, Birkin bags in recent years became a favourite talking point among Malaysians for their eye-watering price tag and symbol of wealth.
The former Philippines First Lady's shoe haul included:
― 3,000 pairs of shoes, including brands such as Gucci, Charles Jourdan, Christian Dior, Salvatore Ferragamo, Chanel, Pierre Cardin, Prada and Bally.
― Though the total value of Imelda’s shoes is not known, a museum staffer Jimmy de la Rosa told ABC News that in the 80s, a pair of Filipino-made shoes cost between US$6 (RM56 today) to US$11 (RM102 today) while imported shoes cost US$100 (RM925 today) or more.
Malaysian police seized:
― 567 handbags from 37 high-end brands, including Hermès, Prada, Chanel and the notoriously exclusive Bijan.
― Value for Hermès bags alone was RM51.3 million while some of the custom-made Bijan bags were valued at RM1.6 million.
The winner: Malaysia. You don’t have to be a math genius to figure this one out.
Round 3: Shopping sprees
In 1983, Imelda reportedly spent:
― US$7 million (RM73 million today) in 90 days, according to People.
― US$3 million (RM31 million today) in a single day in New York, including US$2 million (RM21 million today) on fine jewellery and US$35,000 on limousines.
― In Rome, Imelda bought a US$3.5 million (RM36 million) Michelangelo painting.
― Once bought US$2,000 (RM20,736 million today) worth of chewing gum.
― In Rome, made her aircraft do a mid-air U-turn because she forgot to buy cheese.
Here’s what The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said about Najib’s alleged holiday expenses:
― The Wall Street Journal reported that US$130,625 (RM526,000) was spent at a Chanel store in Honolulu in 2014.
― WSJ also revealed more than US$14 million (RM56 million) was transferred to Malaysian clothing store Jakel.
― €750,000 (RM3.5 million) spent in Swiss jewellery store in August 2014.
― In 2011, spent US$56,000 (RM226,000) at a car dealership in Kuala Lumpur.
The winner: Philippines! The cheese U-turn definitely takes the cake.
*Inflation figures obtained via CPI Inflation Calculator