by FARA AISYAH / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
The Malaysian government’s seizure of the RM1 billion luxury yacht Equanimity — allegedly purchased using money stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) — is legal, said Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas.
The country’s head of prosecution said the High Court of Kuala Lumpur had issued a warrant for the yacht on Monday (Aug 6) following the filing by the AG’s office of the admiralty jurisdiction over the Equanimity.
“Accordingly, the Equanimity is properly seized under the laws of Malaysia,” he said in a statement yesterday.
The RM1 billion yacht arrived in Port Klang yesterday afternoon after it was handed over by the Indonesian authorities.
The yacht was seized by the Indonesian authorities in Bali on Feb 28, 2018, on the application of the US Department of Justice (DoJ). The seizure was done at the initiative of the DoJ, which asserted ownership of the yacht on behalf of Malaysia and 1MDB because monies belonging to us were used to purchase it, said Thomas.
The 91m yacht arrived at the Boustead cruise Centre Terminal in Port Klang after it was handed to the Malaysian authorities on Sunday, off the coast of Batam.
Malaysia plans to sell the yacht and recover as much money as posibble from the disposal.
The luxury yacht, which is linked to fugitive billionaire Low Taek Jho — also known as Jho Low — has been at the centre of seizure, both in Malaysia and the US, following claims that the Cayman Islandsregistered yacht was purchased using 1MDB’s money.
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.
Dr Mahathir has thanked the Indonesian government, especially Jokowi, for the cooperation in returning the yacht to Malaysia.
The prime minister also challenged any parties to stake their claim on the RM1 billion yacht.
Thomas said the return of the Equanimity was the result of the mutual legal assistance treaties between Indonesia, the US and Malaysia, which were activated recently.
“Sensitive and delicate negotiations were conducted at the highest levels of different agencies in the three countries to accomplish this feat,” Thomas said.
Among the agencies involved were the Royal Malaysia Police, the Royal Malaysian Navy, the Malaysian AntiCorruption Commission (MACC) and the AG’s office.
He also extended his gratitude to the Indonesian and US governments, especially to the Republic of Indonesia Police, for the return of the yacht.
Meanwhile, fugitive Low, through his legal team, claimed the move to hand over the Equanimity to Malaysia was illegal and politically motivated.
Bloomberg reported that Low was asking the US to declare its knowledge about the transfer of the super yacht to Malaysia from Indonesia.
Lawyers representing Low filed a notice on Monday to a California district court to direct the US government to reveal its knowledge of the yacht’s transfer.
The money allegedly stolen from 1MDB, amounting to US$1.7 billion (RM6.97 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 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.
How does the Equanimity compares
• It is 54th-largest yacht in the world as of 2017, but is one of the most expensive yachts in the world.
• The Equanimity’s value is the same as the Al Mirqab, a 133m yacht built in 2008 which is listed as the 9th most expensive yacht in the world.
• The Equanimity is also more expensive than the 104.85m Lady Moura, which is valued at US$210 million and listed as No 10 of the most expensive luxury boats.
• The RM1 billion value of the Equanimity could pay for 20,000 cars priced at RM50,000 each.
• The length of the yacht is slighter shorter that the 305ft (93m) Statue of Liberty (from the bottom of its pedestal to the uppermost tip of Lady Liberty’s torch).
• The 2,999-tonne Equanimity is equivalent to the total weight of 1,499 cars.