WIDOW Grace Mugabe lived a life of luxury as Zimbabwe’s First Lady, splashing out £60,000 on a single shopping trip and £360,000 on a Rolls Royce as 7.2 million in her country starved.
But the shameless ‘First Shopper’, dubbed “Gucci Grace” – whose brutal leader husband Robert had his funeral last weekend – isn’t the only member of the dictators’ WAG club to become notorious for her extravagance.
From collections of designer shoes that would fill six cars to making aeroplanes U-turn mid-air in order to buy cheese, first ladies across the globe have displayed staggering lavishness.
Some have even stolen their own citizens’ money to fund their lavish habits.
We reveal the other WAGs who have enjoyed First-class lifestyles… no matter what the cost.
The shoe addict: Imelda Marcos
Role: Former First Lady of the Philippines
For Imelda Marcos, there’s no such thing as too many shoes.
Now aged 90, Imelda amassed more than 1,200 pairs of shoes during her 21 years as the First Lady of the Philippines.
She also reportedly splashed out millions on jewellery and artwork, while her husband Ferdinand Marcos tormented poverty-stricken Filipinos with his corrupt and brutal regime.
Marcos ruled the country for two decades and placed it under martial law in 1972, during which time thousands of people were jailed, tortured, killed or disappeared.
He was also accused of accumulating more than $10billion while in office.
As well as having expensive taste, his wife Imelda once reportedly ordered a plane to do a U-turn in mid-air because she had forgotten to buy some cheese in Rome.
She also demanded to take home a 4ft-tall sugar Santa from Bloomingdale’s store window during a Christmas shopping trip to New York, People Magazine reported.
But Imelda’s flashy lifestyle came crashing down in 1986 when her dictator husband was overthrown by a popular, army-backed uprising and the family fled to Hawaii.
They took hundreds of belongings with them including 24 gold bricks and 413 pieces of jewellery, but left Imelda’s shoe collection behind at the presidential palace.
Imelda, who was First Lady from 1965 to 1986, would later say: “They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes.”
Former president Marcos died in exile in 1989.
Widow Imelda was later allowed to return with their children to the Philippines – where hundreds of her shoes have been put on display at a museum in Manila.
But last year, she was hauled before the courts for making $200 million worth of illegal bank transfers to Swiss foundations during her time as Manila governor.
She was sentenced to at least 42 years in prison after being convicted of seven counts of corruption – which the 90-year-old continues to deny. She remains on bail, pending her appeal.
The Louboutin-loving ‘Lady of Death’: Asma al-Assad
Role: Current First Lady of Syria
British-born Asma al-Assad was once known as “Syria’s Princess Diana”.
But she is now a reviled figure in her own country, with activists calling her “the Lady of Death” and accusing her of being complicit in the slaughter of women and children.
Born in London to a family from Homs City, Asma and her husband, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have an opulent palace estimated to be worth $1 billion (£810 million)
In 2012, Wikileaks published private emails from Asma, 44, showing she’d spent £250,000 on 130 pieces of furniture when the bloody civil war had been raging for one year.
She splashed out on a Harrods vase, five chandeliers, posh candlesticks, and a rug costing thousands of pounds – as well as a pair of £5,000 shoes with crystal-encrusted heels.
Asma’s favourite shoes are Louboutins, with the First Lady emailing a pal and relative about the designer footwear in February 2012, according to the Guardian.
The handbag queen: Rosmah Mansor
Role: Former First Lady of Malaysia
While Asma adores furniture, Rosmah Mansor has a penchant for handbags.
The 67-year-old second wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak reportedly accumulated an enormous collection of 567 luxury handbags.
She also indulged in expensive shopping sprees during her 2009-2018 term as First Lady – while her people struggled with the rising cost of living.
The Wall Street Journal reported she racked up credit card charges of at least $6 million between 2008 and 2015 in major cities across the world, including London and New York.
Once, Rosmah even complained about having to pay 1,200 ringgit (£235) to get her hair dyed – when Malaysia’s minimum wage was 900 ringgit a month.
The former first lady and 66-year-old Razak are now under investigation over an alleged multibillion-dollar scam involving the state fund, 1MDB.
The US Department of Justice said millions of dollars from the fund were spent on jewellery for Rosmah – including a $27 million (£21.8 million) pink diamond necklace set.
However, Razak told Reuters his wife never received this set.
Police also discovered 272 Hermes bags worth nearly £10.5 million, 1,400 necklaces, 2,200 rings and more than 400 watches at properties linked to the couple.
Razak, who claimed many items were gifts, is currently on trial accused of money laundering, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust – all of which he denies.
Rosmah, meanwhile, has denied charges of money laundering and tax evasion.
The ‘IOU’ princess: Maha al-Sudairi
Role: Saudi Princess and ex-wife of Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister
Shopaholic Saudi princess Maha al-Sudairi is also known for her love of designer goods – but instead of paying for them, she would leave “IOUs” with store employees.
Maha – the third wife of former Saudi interior minister Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud – went on epic shopping sprees across Paris, calling into top-end boutiques.
She snapped up designer clothes, jewels and lingerie – then got a representative to hand over an embossed document stating, “Payment to follow”, Vanity Fair reported.
But in up to 30 cases, this payment was never made.
A lingerie store owner, who claimed in 2009 she was still owed £60,000 from now-divorced Maha, said: “She was a very good customer for eight years, but then simply stopped paying.”
Another proprietor told reporters the princess wasn’t the kind of customer they would ask for a deposit or an identity card, particularly because they knew her family “well”.
Three years later, Maha allegedly attempted to sneak out of Paris’s five-star Shangri-La Hotel in the dead of night without settling her $7.5 million (£6 million) bill.
She had been staying at the luxury hotel with an entourage of 60 assistants for six months when she reportedly tried to leave (the hotel chain has since told ABC News, “the Shangri-La Hotel in Paris has no pending bill issues with any of its guests”).
In 2013, a judge ruled that three ‘Aladdin’s caves’ of luxury goods, amassed by Maha and thought to be worth up to £12 million, would be seized to settle her unpaid bills.
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The criminal: Rosa Elena Bonilla
Role: Former first lady of Honduras
Rosa Elena Bonilla is the most recent First Lady to have dramatically fallen from grace.
Just this month, the 52-year-old – who was first lady of Honduras from 2010 to 2014 – was jailed for 58 years on charges of fraud and undue appropriation of funds.
Bonilla was accused of misusing the equivalent of $779,000 (£630,000) in funds during her time as First Lady that came from international donations and public funds.
These funds were meant to be used for social programs, but prosecutors said Bonilla had used them to buy jewellery and pay for her kids’ tuition and construction work.