The RM1b 91m yacht is expected to arrive in Port Klang today
By P PREM KUMAR, DASHVEENJIT KAUR & FARA AISYAH / Pic by AFP
Malaysians will have a chance to view up close the controversial luxury yacht, Equanimity, which was allegedly bought with money siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) when it arrives in Port Klang today.
The US$250 million (RM1.02 billion) 91m yacht is expected to arrive at the port after it was handed over by the Indonesians to Malaysian authorities yesterday off the coast of Batam.
The government plans to put the yacht up for sale and recover as much money from the disposal as possible as Putrajaya seeks to tie loose ends related to the 1MDB scandal.
The luxury yacht, which is linked to fugitive billionaire Low Taek Jho or also known as Jho Low, has been at the centre of seizure both in Malaysia and the US, following claims that the Cayman Islands-registered yacht was purchased with 1MDB’s money.
According to a government source, the Equanimity will arrive at the port later today. The seizure of the yacht by the Malaysian government has received the approval of the US authorities, said the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The US authorities have been on the hunt for assets allegedly purchased using the US$4.5 billion stolen from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.
The return of the Equanimity came after a request was made by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo during the former’s visit to Jakarta at the end of June.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir has thanked the Indonesian government, especially Jokowi, for the cooperation in returning the yacht to Malaysia.
“I am thankful to Indonesia for cooperating and helping Malaysia to solve one of the problems the country is facing, as we believe the yacht was bought using Malaysia’s money stolen by certain parties,” he said in a video posted on his Facebook yesterday.
Dr Mahathir also challenged any parties to stake their claim on the RM1 billion yacht.
“If there is any party which would like to claim the yacht belongs to them, please show the proof as we would like to know how were they able to buy such an expensive yacht.”
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the luxury yacht could be disposed of soon.
He said the Attorney-General’s (AG) Chambers will ensure proper documents are in place for the Malaysian government to take control of the luxury yacht.
Lim said the yacht is already under the custody of the Malaysian government and negotiations will take place, if necessary, with the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
He said the public could be allowed to view only part of the Equanimity as valuable assets are believed to still be inside the yacht.
“The AG will ensure all papers are in order and, if possible, to make sure a proper inventory of the assets inside.
“We think of just clawing back as much money as we can from all these assets which were stolen from the country, preferably at their highest prices,” he said, adding that AG Tommy Thomas will reveal a detailed plan today.
The yacht, ranked the 54th-largest in the world in 2017, was seized in February off the tourist island of Bali in a joint operation between the Indonesian authorities and the the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The DoJ had launched an investigation into 1MDB over money laundering allegations.
The money stolen from 1MDB, amounting to US$1.7 billion, had been used to purchase the Equanimity, a US$35 million Bombardier private jet, several pieces of art including a Vincent van Gogh painting, two paintings by Monet and and two paintings by Pablo Picasso, among others.
The DoJ has already taken possession of some of the items purchased using 1MDB’s money.
Low is believed to have orchestrated the intricate web of money laundering via the fund. The elusive tycoon, whose Malaysian passport had been revoked and location is unknown, has not been charged of any crime.
But a warrant of arrest has been issued by the Malaysian government. The Singapore government is also looking for low over financial dealings related to 1MDB on the island republic.
low, through his legal team, has condemned Malaysia’s action in taking over the yacht, claiming the move was “politically motivated”.
“The action of the Dr Mahathir government in illegitimately taking this asset shows just how quickly the rule of law disappears in Dr Mahathir’s regime,” according to a statement issued by his legal team.
Netizens had welcomed the seizure of the yacht and the return of the Equanimity to Malaysia. Many had asked low to return to the country and claim the yacht in the local courts, if it is legally purchased with his money.
The Malaysian government is trying to recover the money stolen from 1MDB, among others, including by working with the Swiss, the US and Singapore authorities.
Facts about the equanimity
- Length: 91.5m.
- Built in Netherlands by Oceanco.
- Delivered in June 2014.
- Construction: Steel with an aluminium superstructure.
- Onboard:Can accommodate 26 guests in 9 staterooms, crew (28), a spa and beach club, a beauty salon, a gym, a sauna, a Turkish bath and a large pool.
- Powered by 24,828 hp diesel engines.
- 54th-largest yacht in the world (as of 2017).