Michelle Obama’s acceptance of millions from Saudi monarch may not legitimise Najib’s RM1 billion stash as he hopes for | Tech News

Najib pointed out Michelle Obama’s acceptance of millions worth of gifts from a late Saudi ruler to defend the legitimacy of his seized luxury items.
Reuters

Accepting gifts from foreign dignitaries is neither illegal nor unethical, said ex-premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak as he drew comparisons to former US first lady Michelle Obama who he claimed had similarly received lavish gifts before.

However, cracks are starting to form in his argument to defend the legitimacy of the nearly RM1 billion ($250 million) worth of luxury items and cash confiscated from his residence.

On Wednesday (Jun 27), Najib told Malaysiakini in an interview that it was not wrong for him to accept valuable gifts and that particularly for monarchs, expensive gift-giving is a cultural matter.

He then pointed out that Mrs Obama had in the past accepted gifts worth millions from the late Saudi Arabian ruler King Abdullah Abdulaziz Saud when her husband Barack Obama was still US president.

His claim though, is glaringly contradictory to the US Department of State Protocol Gift Unit’s stand on gift acceptance.

According to a statement by the Department, the Gift Office within the Office of the Chief of Protocol receives all diplomatic gifts on behalf of White House and Department of State officials. It also maintains records of diplomatic gifts.

“This includes all diplomatic gifts received by the President, Vice President, and the Secretary of State and their spouses,” added the US Department of State.

A report by The Washington Diplomat states that federal employees are required to pay the Treasury a fair market value should they wish to keep any presents for personal use.

Under the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act of 1966, the president may accept a gift without congressional involvement if its value does not exceed the established limit at the time.

The maximum value during the Obama administration was $375.

The General Services Administration Foreign Gifts and Declarations Officer is tasked with determining the fate of a gift, which usually ends up with the National Archives and Records Administration or presidential libraries.

Interestingly, in 2014, Najib gave Barack Obama a framed portrait of the US president woven in songket fabric, a stamp collection and six booklets about Islam.

Other gifts that year included a bronze tone-covered album of photos showing Obama’s visit to Malaysia as well as a 20-inch sword held in a sheath of gemstone-encrusted gold and silver.

The only gifts that are not retained are perishable goods and those are “handled pursuant to United States Secret Service policy”, of which details have been kept mostly under wraps.

But a Bloomberg report revealed that government guidelines say foods and similar items “may, with approval, be given to charity, shared with the office or destroyed“.

No records have been established by the Protocol Gift Unit for current US President Donald Trump as of yet.

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