Eye on ‘Jacob the Jeweller’ after Rosmah’s ring denial


By Yew Hong Chieh, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, July 29 — Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s denial today that she bought a RM24 million Jacob & Co diamond ring has thrown a spotlight on the jeweller’s alleged money-laundering activities.

Questions have now arisen as to whether the name of the wife of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had been used without her knowledge by criminal elements as part of illegal activities.

Various opposition-friendly blogs had published screenshots of a Customs computer screen showing the ring, from New York celebrity jeweller Jacob and Co, was brought in under her name.

Jacob & Co founder Jacob Arabo, whose custom diamond-encrusted wrist watches and chunky jewellery adorn Hollywood A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio and hip-hop stars Kanye West and Jay-Z, is no stranger to such allegations.

The Uzbekistan-born Jew, described by the New York Times as the “Harry Winston of the hip-hop world”, has twice tangled with US federal law enforcement agencies.

In 1998, Arabo was arrested by the FBI for alleged criminal possession of stolen property. The charges were later dropped.

He was arrested by the FBI again in 2006, this time for allegedly laundering US$270 million (RM810 million) for the notorious Detroit-based Black Mafia Family (BMF) drug gang and failing to report large cash purchases to the Internal Revenue Service.

Arabo was accused of “facilitating the purchase of jewellery utilising the drug proceeds of (BMF leaders) Terry Lee Flenory, Demetrius Flenory in order to conceal the true source, nature and ownership of the funds involved in these transactions”, according to the US District Court in Detroit.

“Jacob the Jeweller”, as he is known in hip-hop circles, would later plead guilty to a lesser charge of lying to investigators in exchange for the more serious money-laundering charges being dropped.

According to the New York Post, the “King of Bling”, as he was labelled by the tabloid, pleaded guilty in federal court in Detroit in 2007, agreeing to serve between 37 and 46 months behind bars and pay US$2 million in penalties.