Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has argued that the valuation of items seized from residences linked to him is “subjective and unrealistic”, calling for a proper examination of each item before reaching any conclusions.
In an interview with Malaysiakini, Najib said in the case of the jewellery, prices largely depended on the source of the stones and when they were gifted or purchased.
“Valuations can tend to differ. So let us not get too excited about it. Let us look at the items, every single item, and we hope to have a chance to examine these items and we can come to a conclusion on the source of the items and can get an explanation on the items seized by the police,” he said.
Najib was reported as saying that just “like any husband”, he had no knowledge of the scale of his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s collection of luxury items.
According to Najib, Rosmah herself was surprised by the number of items confiscated and did not believe the valuation would exceed RM1 billion ($250 million) as claimed by the authorities.
Najib said he was not provided with a detailed list of the items seized and the one he received was “incomplete” with “vague descriptions” and without photographs.
Given that some of the items were sent by jewellers for viewing and needed to be returned, he said records of the items would have been kept and suggested identifying the individuals. Some of the jewellers have already written in to legally claim the items back, he added.
He also said that much of the jewellery seized was not owned by Rosmah, but their daughter Nooryana Najwa, her husband and mother-in-law.
Examination of the confiscated items should be followed by the establishment of “other factors”, said Najib.
“We need to know the dates of the gifts, like jewellery items. As you know, prices of stones acquired or gifted after 20 years ago are much less (then) because the price of stones have increased significantly so it depends on what valuation and when the valuation was made.”
He noted that, in his defence, it is not unusual and unethical for government leaders to receive extravagant gifts.
“Over the years, as head of government, we have been gifted with a lot of items by foreign leaders as well as personal friends and I do know that under the law it is not illegal to receive gifts. These gifts were accumulated over decades,” said Najib.
“For example, (Prime Minister) Tun 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 also gave the example of former US president Barack Obama’s wife Michelle who received gifts worth millions from the late Saudi Arabia ruler King Abdullah Abdulaziz Saud, and explained that expensive gift-giving by monarchs in certain countries is a matter of culture.
He said: “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.”
Najib expressed interest in putting the gifts up for exhibition in a galleria, similar to Dr Mahathir’s museum in Langkawi which boasts 9,000 items.
“That was my intention. You know, put them in an exhibit because those things…I have never used.”