In a bizarre case of trolling, instant noodle producer and Guancheng Investment chairman Li Ruipeng reportedly gifted a bunch of Australian Liberal MPs $250,000 worth of Rolex watches that they believed to be fake — on account of the offerings being presented, 3 years ago, in a plastic bag.
The red-faced MPs are former prime minister Tony Abbott, then assistant defense minister Stuart Robert and then opposition industry spokesman Ian Macfarlane, who all accepted the Rolexes at an informal dinner with Li at Parliament House in June of 2013. There were even watches for Abbott’s and Robert’s wives, not in attendance. (Abbott’s then chief of staff Peta Credlin was snubbed, though.)
Although doing the diligent thing and declaring it with the House of Representatives clerk, Macfarlane believed his Rolex to be a fake, worth $300-500, but nonetheless “wore it occasionally.”
The Guardian reports that doubts arose after the federal election in September, when Liberal candidate Ian Goodenough (sidenote: topical surname) compared Macfarlane’s watch to his own legit Rolex. Macfarlane was then compelled to get his supposed fake valued in Sydney, and discovered that it was really worth $40,000!
Rather than rejoice, however, Macfarlane promptly returned the Rolex to Li’s company. Being alerted to the mayhem, Liberal Party director Tony Nutt ordered for the immediate return of all the luxury watches.
Here’s the story according to a spokesman for Abbott:
My understanding is that they were handed over in a plastic bag, as has been reported, and I think everybody was of the same view.
They were declared in the normal way. As with most parliamentarians, it’s better to over declare than under declare but I believe Mr Abbott was of the understanding that they were fake, given the way that they were handed over, and, when it became apparent that they weren’t, they were handed over straight away.
Meanwhile, Robert’s spokesman was less verbose, merely saying there was “nothing to add to the story that’s not already out there.” Incidentally, Robert is currently being suspected for ministerial breach of conduct over a purportedly “personal” trip he made to Beijing in August of 2014. Australian media has shaded that Robert “should have learned from the watches to tread warily in China.”
By Pinky Latt