Disgraced former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak on Monday said in court that a US$130,000 receipt he racked up at a Chanel store in the United States was a birthday gift for his wife, local media have reported.
Najib, who is on trial on charges relating to Malaysia's multibillion-dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal, said he bought a luxury watch on holiday five years ago, the Malay Mail reported.
"The purchase in Chanel in Honolulu was for a watch I purchased as a gift for my wife's birthday in the month of December," he said from the witness box in the High Court.
Najib is facing six charges of money laundering and criminal breach of trust for misappropriating 42 million ringgit (US$10 million) from SRC International, a former unit of Malaysian state fund 1MDB.
Some of the funds spent on luxury items, including the Chanel watch, is alleged to have come from SRC and were transferred into Najib's AmBank account.
Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor, whose birthday falls on December 10, is known for her love of designer goods. During investigations, police have seized scores of luxury items, including handbags worth up to US$300,000 and a vast collection of exclusive shoes, from Najib and Rosmah.
Najib told the High Court he also charged 127,000 ringgit to his credit card to house his family and accompanying officers at the Shangri-La Hotel during a holiday in Bangkok in January 2015, The Edge Markets reported.
"It is my right to claim back the expenses from the government as I was working during my vacation. However, I chose to bear all the expenses on my own since I didn't want to complicate the matter and have acted on my discretion," he said.
Najib also spent Euro763,500 (US$845,000) at an Italian jeweller to buy gifts for the family of former Qatari prime minister Ahmed Jassim Al Thani, The Edge Markets reported.
He passed the gifts to Ahmed, whom he met by coincidence during his holiday in Sardinia in August 2014, Najib said in court.
He said the presents, which he had charged to his credit cards, brought benefit to Malaysia as it helped to maintain good ties with foreign leaders.
Ahmed and his wife had given Najib some gifts during their official visits to Malaysia, and "on that basis, it would be unbecoming of us to return their favour with anything less than their position and generosity", he said.
Najib also told the court that expenses for personal matters for the period from August 2013 to March 2015 made up only 0.4 per cent of the total funds received in the Ambank account, The Edge Markets reported.
The 1MDB corruption scandal saw US$4.5 billion siphoned out of Malaysia's state wealth fund. More than US$700 million from the fund is alleged to have landed in Najib's bank account.
The former premier faces a total of 42 criminal charges for his involvement in the financial scandal, and the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted.
Truckloads of suitcases packed with cash, jewellery and designer bags amounting to US$265 million were seized from Najib's and his wife's home and properties last year.
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