KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 27 — It is part of the Middle East culture to present others with “expensive” gifts, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has claimed when the topic of infamous 22-carat pink diamond pendant linked to Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was brought up.
The former prime minister told Al Jazeera’s 101 East show that heads of government have also received expensive presents from monarchs from that region.
“There’s a culture with Middle East that expensive presents are given...but we don’t know the value of the presents,” Najib told host Mary Ann Jolley, insisting that he did not know the value of the diamond.
“As heads of government we have received expensive presents from other monarchs in the region. That’s their culture,” he added.
Najib had said the still-missing US$27 million (RM112.7 million) diamond was given by Prince Sheikh Mansour, the brother of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, and not fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low.
He also insisted that Rosmah never received said gift.
Jolley also pressed Najib on the fact that Rosmah and Low had met, and that jeweller Lorraine Schwartz who made the necklace knew that the diamond was a gift from Low to Rosmah paid by him.
“We wouldn’t know! We did not know the value of the present,” Najib said.
The jewellery was allegedly gifted to Rosmah in March 2014.
It was part of the US$30 million jewellery purportedly bought with funds misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), according to a United States Department of Justice civil suit.
Najib also denied that there are laws requiring civil servants or lawmakers to declare any expensive gifts they have received.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced in July that ministers will not be allowed to receive expensive gifts such as Mercedes-Benz luxury vehicles or even Proton cars, but will only be able to accept food, flowers or pewter plaques.
Editor's note: * The previous version of this article mistakenly quoted Najib as saying "Malays" instead of "Middle East". The error has been corrected, and Malay Mail apologises for the oversight.