PORT KLANG: Superyacht Equanimity will not be open for public viewing in order to maintain its value and safeguard its condition, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Saturday (Aug 11).
He said the ship would be sold off as soon as possible as the maintenance costs alone would come to about RM2 million (US$489,600) a month.
“We have to keep the yacht in good condition. But if you allow hundreds of people to come and view the yacht then it might damage the yacht.
“Buyers will not want to buy a ship that is exhibited like that," Dr Mahathir told reporters after conducting an inspection of the vessel - estimated to be worth RM1 billion - docked at the Boustead Cruise Centre.
The superyacht, linked to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, arrived in Malaysia on Aug 7 after being handed over by Indonesian authorities.
Dr Mahathir, however, said the public would be able to have an idea of what the Equanimity was about as pictures had been taken of the luxurious interior of the vessel during the visit.
“Everything that you can think of is found there and many things that you don't think about is also there. It is not really a yacht, but a huge ship,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said it appeared that several paintings had been removed from the ship.
He said the proposed sale of the superyacht will be advertised internationally.
Asked if any parties had expressed interest to buy the vessel, Dr Mahathir said he had some idea of who the interested parties were.
Nevertheless, he stressed that those intending to purchase it “must be very, very rich”.
“Maybe people like the Arabs or Bill Gates might (make an) offer,” he quipped, adding that the ship would be very expensive to maintain.
Dr Mahathir also dared Jho Low to come and stake his claim over the ship’s ownership.
"WE ARE ENTITLED TO IT"
Dr Mahathir said the United States has assured that Malaysia was indeed the owner of the superyacht Equanimity as it had been acquired by Mr Low using funds siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
This was uncovered in the course of an investigation by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), said the prime minister.
"The DOJ investigated and they found that this yacht belonged to Jho Low and that the money he paid for it was stolen money, from 1MDB," he said.
Dr Mahathir added the US had documents on this.
"They have assured us that this is Jho Low's boat and they said if we want to keep it we are entitled to it because this is ours, and (the yacht had been) bought with stolen Malaysian money, and when we eventually sell this boat we're entitled to the proceeds," he said.
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 DOJ.
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.