Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Monday denied news reports that he had bought an executive jet, and explained that the government had only leased the aircraft from Penerbangan Malaysia Berhad.

The prime minister pointed out that the plane was not for his use alone.

“The jet is for use of the government, not the prime minister (only),” he told a news conference at the KL International Airport upon his return from London after having attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

Elaborating, Abdullah said: “The aircraft belongs to Penerbangan Malaysia Berhad; it was (bought with) their money. We just leased it like how MAS (Malaysia Airlines) leases aircraft from them.”

Websites had reported that Abdullah had bought an ACJ 319 VIP jet from Airbus at a cost of between US$55 million and US$60 million.

The websites claimed, among other things, that the aircraft based on the A320 model was undergoing internal refurbishing in Switzerland.

Explaining the rationale for leasing the aircraft, Abdullah said leasing enabled the government to save cost.

“Why do we (the government) have to buy aircraft? If we buy, we have to undertake repairs and expend on many other things.

“If is preferable to lease, and when there are repairs to be made, the lessor has to provide a replacement aircraft for our use,” he said.

Abdullah pointed out that Penerbangan Malaysia stood to gain from the lease, just as it earned from the lease of aircraft to MAS.