Najib: Not illegal to get gifts, cites Dr M’s 40 horses and millions received by Michelle Obama

(The Star) – After the police revealed the staggering RM1bil market value of seized luxury items from six residences linked to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (pic), the former premier has insisted that, under the law, it is not illegal to receive gifts.

In an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini on Wednesday (June 27), Najib said that as head of government over the years, “we have been gifted with a lot of items by foreign leaders as well as personal friends”.

According to him, these gifts were accumulated over decades.

“For example, (Prime Minister) Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) admitted to receiving 40 horses from his friends and foreign leaders, and he openly uses a lot of corporate jets from his friends, so it is not illegal to receive gifts,” Najib added. 

In a previous interview with Reuters, Najib had said that most of the luxury items seized were “gifts” given to his wife and daughter and had nothing to do with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

When asked if it was ethical for a person in his position to accept valuable gifts, Najib said former US president Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle Obama, received millions from the late Saudi ruler King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud.

“And when King Salman visited Indonesia recently, he also gave millions worth of gifts. So some of these monarchs in certain countries, it’s part of their culture to give costly items.

“For example, items given to me by these monarchs, I have not used them. I have kept them because I don’t use very expensive things as my friends know. I don’t use any watches that contain valuable stones,” he added.

When asked to elaborate on his statement that it is not illegal to receive such gifts, Najib said it is not illegal if the gifts are “given to you by other heads of state, like on occasions like your birthday, and not expecting anything in return…”.

Najib also pointed out that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had gone on the record about receiving 40 horses from his friends.

“I am sure there are other gifts he received as well throughout his career,” he added.

Najib brought up how he was close with the late king Abdullah, who had bestowed him with Saudi Arabia’s highest honour, which is normally reserved for the nation’s closest allies, which include former US president Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Najib said he had planned to include these gifts in his museum cum gallery at some point of time. He added that Dr Mahathir’s museums in Langkawi had 9,000 items.

“That was my intention. You know, put them in an exhibit, because really… those things… I have never used.

“I know some expensive rings were given, but I have never used them because I know they were expensive.

“And I know, as a leader, I shouldn’t use them and they will not be used and they will be part of the galleria one day that will be shown,” he added.

In a press conference on Wednesday, the police disclosed that the cash and items seized from the residences linked to Najib amounted to between RM900mil and RM1.1bil.

They include more than 12,000 pieces of jewellery – comprising 2,200 rings, 1,400 necklaces, 2,100 bracelets, 2,800 pairs of earrings,1,600 brooches and 14 tiaras.

The most expensive item was a necklace that had a value of at least RM6mil, said Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) director Datuk Seri Amar Singh,

Other items seized include 423 watches worth RM78mil and 567 handbags made up of 37 luxury brands, with an estimated value of RM51.3mil.