PHOTO: Abxbay/Wikimedia Commons

Malaysia’s 1MDB Fund Lays Claim to Superyacht Equanimity

Equanimity belongs to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) fund. That’s the claim of lawyers acting on behalf of it, two of its subsidiaries, and the Malaysian government. Following Equanimity’s arrival in Malaysia this week, those lawyers succeeded in getting the admiralty court in Kuala Lumpur to arrest her. It’s the latest in a six-month-long, multi-country battle concerning the superyacht and funds stolen from the above-mentioned fund. Those stolen funds reportedly went toward buying the yacht.

Equanimity is in Port Klang, near that capital city. She arrived on Tuesday from Indonesia, where she’s been since an initial arrest in February. Back then, Indonesian police seized the 300-footer (91-meter) off Bali at the request of the FBI. The Indonesian government and the FBI both allege that her owner, Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, stole millions from 1MDB, a government-run development fund. The allegations against the financier, a.k.a. Jho Low, date back to 2015. Low has long denied the claims. Regardless, in June 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil case seeking to recover the yacht. Soon afterwards, a U.S. District Court judge in California issued an arrest warrant for Equanimity.

Following the seizure, in March, Low filed lawsuits in Indonesia and the United States, claiming the yacht’s arrest was illegal. That same week, however, the Department of Justice requested a California court name it the yacht’s custodian. A judge ruled in its favor in early March, clearing Equanimity for transfer to the USA. The yacht didn’t depart, however. In April, an Indonesian court found that the FBI failed to follow proper procedures for the arrest. Specifically, it hadn’t contacted Indonesia’s Ministry of Law first and obtained what’s called mutual legal assistance (MLA). The court therefore ruled Low should get Equanimity back. Days later, the Department of Justice filed for the MLA. Indonesian authorities subsequently arrested Equanimity again in July.

The superyacht arrived in Malaysia earlier this week because Indonesia turned her over. According to Reuters, the Malaysian attorney general released a statement of explanation. He indicated the handover resulted from legal treaties among Indonesia, Malaysia, and the United States. The news wire adds that the Department of Justice wants to suspend its seizure efforts, too, until the Malaysian government reveals what it intends to do with the yacht.

A throng of media and curious on-lookers lined the shores of Port Klang when Equanimity arrived, escorted by police boats and other security. Malaysia’s finance minister told reporters that the government will make an inventory of Equanimity’s effects. In addition, he said, the government will eventually sell her “at the highest price.”

A lawyer for 1MDB tells Reuters, “1MDB claims ownership to this vessel…as they believe that their money was misappropriated and used to purchase the vessel.” Overall, fund officials and their associates took $4.5 billion from 1MDB. Money-laundering probes are underway in several countries, including the United States. The Department of Justice says that Low bought Equanimity, fine art, and more with some of the stolen money.

Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd., the registered owner of the yacht, released a statement to Reuters after the yacht arrived. The company claims Malaysia has violated both Indonesian and U.S. court decisions. Furthermore, it says the turnover is “unlawful and extrajudicial.”

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