In a recent turn of events, the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal has a new update. The luxury yacht, “Equanimity”, which cost about USD$250 mil (RM979 mil) and belonged to businessman Low Taek Jho, has just been seized by the Indonesian authorities on February 28.
According to Straits Times, the yacht was found on the island of Bali at Benoa Bay. The yacht was sought after by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) as they were investigating the multi-billion dollar corruption case linked to Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Agung Setya, director of economic and special crimes at the Indonesia’s criminal investigation bureau said that they were given the approval to seize the boat. “We have been inspecting the crew since yesterday and now we are taking action since we have received approval from the court to seize the boat,” he said. There were 34 crew members on board the ship.
The Indonesian authorities are uncertain whether the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would be involved but will discuss it further with DOJ. “We will see how this develops… Whether we can do a joint investigation later or whether we can hand it over later, we are in the process of collecting and investigating.”
Low’s whereabouts are still largely unknown and his Hong Kong company has been unresponsive so far. However, the seizure of his beloved 300-foot yacht must have stirred up some emotions because a spokesperson for Low has come out with a statement.
The statement criticises DOJ and said that they had not proven that any impropriety had occurred before seizing the yacht. It said, “The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has stayed asset forfeiture proceedings in this case and has still not taken any steps to prove that any impropriety has occurred.”
“It is therefore disappointing that, rather than reflecting on the deeply flawed and politically-motivated allegations, the DoJ is continuing with its pattern of global overreach — all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing. We look forward to the Court being presented with the actual facts which demonstrate that the DoJ’s case is completely without foundation.”
He had said the same last year in June when the DOJ had filed a forfeiture suit to seize USD$540 million (RM2.3 billion) in assets. Not long after that, DOJ had asked a Los Angeles judge to put their civil forfeiture lawsuits in August as they didn’t want it to interfere with another criminal investigation about alleged money laundering involving the misappropriated funds.
The scandal-ridden 1MDB is currently at the centre of money-laundering investigations in at least six countries, including the US, Switzerland and Singapore. Some of the other assets that have been returned include millions of dollars worth of jewellery given to Miranda Kerr by Low and valuable gifts given to Leonardo DiCaprio.
The recently confiscated yacht was a key asset in the list but they had not had the chance to seize it. The development fund was set up by our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in 2009, who also served as chairman of its advisory board until last year. He and the fund have denied that they did anything wrong.
That yacht isn’t cheap and the money could have been used to help so many other Malaysians who actually need it!
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