Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott was one of several Liberal MPs who returned a bunch of Rolex watches gifted to them by a Chinese billionaire after realising they were actually real, The Guardian reports.
For years the politicians believed the watches to be fake. Li Ruipeng, the chair of the Li Guancheng Investment Management Group — who made his fortune from selling instant noodles — gave the watches to them in plastic bags at a dinner party.
Abbott, Stuart Robert – currently under political pressure over a controversial trip to China in 2014 – and then opposition industry spokesman Ian Macfarlane all received Rolexes at Australia’s Parliament House back in 2013.
Since the politicians thought the watches were fake, they declared them officially as $300 to $500 gifts and left it at that. Then, a politician with an actual Rolex complimented Macfarlane on his watch, and they realised it was worth about $40,000.
The watches were then collected and returned.
China is known for its fake luxury goods. A recent study conducted by New York University professor Damon McCoy tracked payments for luxury goods around the world. After making around 300 purchases, he tracked 97% of his payments back to three huge Chinese state banks.