PORT KLANG, Selangor: Equanimity, the US$250 million yacht that has almost become a symbol for the millions of dollars allegedly misappropriated from Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB, arrived back at Port Klang on Tuesday (Aug 7).
The yacht was returned by Indonesia, whose authorities detained it following a request by the US Department of Justice, which is investigating alleged misappropriation of 1MDB funds.
The Cayman Islands-registered Equanimity belonged to Jho Low, a fugitive Malaysian financier with links to former prime minister Najib Razak. The yacht was seized in February off the Indonesian tourist island of Bali.
Speaking to the Bernama news agency, a government lawyer said the yacht was in good condition and that the vessel required at least RM3 million (US$736,000) a month to maintain.
“It has a crew of 17 including the captain. What we did today is basically hand over the warrant (of arrest of the ship) to the captain,” said lawyer Sitpah Selvaratnam, adding that the crew was allowed to come ashore and that they will help to maintain the vessel.
The Malaysian government intends to auction the yacht off should it be legally awarded to them in order to recover some of the funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB.
In a statement, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said that the seizure of the boat was done in accordance with Malaysian laws.
"As a result of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties between Indonesia, the United States 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," he said.
Thomas also thanked the US and Indonesia governments, as well as the Republic of Indonesia Police for "extending cooperation and collaboration" during the operation.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad earlier thanked Indonesian President Joko Widodo for his cooperation.
Ties between Malaysia and Indonesia are close with Mahathir visiting Jakarta in June, his first official tour of the region after a stunning election victory in May over Najib.
A total of US$4.5 billion was allegedly misappropriated by top-level 1MDB officials and their associates, according to civil lawsuits filed by the US Department of Justice.
The suits allege that US$1.7 billion worth of assets were allegedly bought with the stolen funds, which US officials are seeking to recover.
Those assets include the Equanimity.
Low was believed to have been sailing around Asia on the yacht before it was seized.
His lawyer called the seizure an "illegal act" in a press release on Monday.
"Mahathir has chosen to bring the asset illegally into a rigged Malaysian system manipulated by a man who only cares about his absolute political rule. It is ultimately justice that suffers," the statement said.
Mahathir said in the video that if any parties claiming to be the yacht's owners could show proof that they bought the yacht with their own money and not stolen money, then they had the right to get it back.
A lawyer representing the Malaysian government, Jeremy Joseph, said that the probe to identify the actual owner or owners of the yacht will take about six to nine months.
"The warrant to detain the vessel was issued by the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday," he said.
“Next week, the team of lawyers appointed by the government will get back to the court for the next course of action to identify the real owner of owners,” he told reporters on Tuesday.