How a handbag in the Najib raids might compare against investigators’ pay

Ida Lim
Two fuchsia pink Hermes Birkin bags can be seen labelled among the pile of boxes containing designer bags that were confiscated in last night’s raid. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — The police’s recent raids on properties linked to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak have so far involved confiscation of hundreds of high-end handbags.

This brings to mind the question: How much might one of these luxury handbags compare in value to the police investigating team’s combined salary?

From the first night at Najib’s personal residence, a police report that has emerged stated the seizure of 52 luxury handbags, including 16 Chanel bags, 10 Gucci bags, eight Versace bags, five Oscar de la Renta bags, four Louis Vuitton bags, two Prada and two Roberto Cavali bags.

Single items of other brands such as Michael Kors and Loewe were also listed. The full list can be viewed here.

The police report mostly only mentioned the colors of the seized handbags and not their particular model, and prices of these prized items — which may breach the RM10,000 mark — vary according to season and are not always readily available.

But some guesstimates might be possible.

The most expensive handbag now sold on the Gucci website is priced at US$31,000 (RM123,318), while the second-highest is at US$14,000 (RM55,692).

The current priciest models available on the websites of entry-level high-end brands such as Michael Kors and Loewe go for US$18,000 (RM71,604) and US$3,390 (RM13,485).

A team of 35 police personnel of varying ranks and seniority were said to be involved in this raid, namely two senior assistant commissioners (SACs), one assistant commissioner of police (ACP), five superintendents of police (Supts), three deputy superintendents of police (DSPs), two assistant superintendents of police (ASPs), two inspectors, one sub-inspectors and 18 others.

As the pay for police personnel vary not just based on their rank or pay grade but also their years of service, it is only possible to do a very crude estimate.

Based on past news reports of revised pay grades in 2013 and an 2015 circular by the Public Service Department (PSD) on the minimum and maximum pay schedule for civil servants, Malay Mail was able to do a rough back of the envelope calculation on the possible combined salary of the police investigators — assuming the 18 were constables (the lowest in the hierarchy).

Using the minimum monthly wages and the likely lowest pay that the team of 35 police personnel could receive, it could possibly come up to at least around RM35,130.

Using the maximum monthly wages from the 2015 pay schedule, it could possibly come up to at least around RM210,975.

So how does it compare? Well, it could be anywhere from a handbag or two or more being equivalent to say a team of 35 policemen’s combined monthly pay, or even one handbag’s value being similar to a large portion of their pay.

But don’t forget that the same raid on the first night at Najib’s house was said to have also involved the seizure of 10 luxury watches and cash in various currencies including RM537,000.

As for the raid at a high-end condominium with two units allegedly linked to Najib, five police trucks had to be used to cart away 284 designer handbags — including Birkin bags under the Hermès brand — and 72 suitcases of cash, watches and jewellery.

Birkin bags reportedly start at US$12,000 (RM48,000) and can go beyond US$200,00 (RM800,000) each.

In a photograph taken by Malay Mail of the boxes of handbags seized, labels on two boxes stating ‘H-bag Fuschia Pink Croco Skin Hermes’ and ‘Fushia Pink Croco Skin Hermes w/ Diamante’ were spotted.

It is again unknown how much the handbags seized at the condominium costs, but it was previously reported that a fuchsia pink crocodile Hermes Birkin bag broke auction records then with a price of US$223,000 (RM887,103).

That is within the price range of what high-end condominiums in the Klang Valley might sell for currently.

For that eye-watering sum of RM887,103, it could cost a low-income (B40) household up to 24.64 years’ worth of their annual income, and cost a mid-income household in Malaysia up to 11.78 years of annual income, and a top-earning household up to 5.62 years of their annual income to pay off.

This would be based on the median monthly household income in 2016 for the respective groups — B40 (RM3,000), M40 (RM6,275), T20 (RM13,148) in the Department of Statistics Malaysia's Report of Household Income and Basic Amenities Survey 2016.

But it is also assuming that the income is used solely to save up for such a bag, and without any of it being used to pay tax or anything else such as household expenses, and also without factoring in inflation.

News agency Reuters has reported that a prime minister’s monthly fixed salary is RM22,826.65 and that Najib earned another RM16,000 per month as he was also a member of Parliament.

That would come up to a total of RM38,826.65 per month or an annual income of RM465,919.80 while Najib was both a PM and MP.