Fri, Mar 09, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Indonesia hands over 1MDB-linked luxury yacht to FBI

AFP, JAKARTA

The luxury yacht Equanimity, is pictured anchored off the coast of Bali, Indonesia, on Wednesday last week.

Photo: AFP

A luxury yacht linked to allegations that US$4.5 billion was looted from Malaysia’s state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) is being handed over to the FBI, which is probing the scandal, Indonesian police said yesterday.

US and Indonesian authorities last week searched the Cayman Island-registered Equanimity, reportedly worth about US$250 million, which was moored off the Indonesian island of Bali.

“[The handing over] is in the process of being done,” Indonesia’s Central Police Department Deputy Director of Economic and Special Crimes Daniel Silitonga said.

The US Department of Justice alleges in civil lawsuits that US$4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB — set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak — in a campaign of fraud and money laundering. Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.

The suits list US$1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with the stolen funds, which US officials are seeking to recover.

Those assets include the 90m yacht that US officials said was purchased by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho (劉特佐), also known as Jho Low, an unofficial adviser to 1MDB.

The ship’s captain and about three dozen crew members had been questioned, but no one has been arrested so far, Silitonga said.

“Regarding the crew, we are still discussing it,” he said, when asked if they would be taken into the FBI’s custody.

Built in 2013, the Netherlands-made yacht has nine bedrooms, including a master suite with a hot tub, a helipad, a gym and spa, and a movie theater, according to yachtcharterfleet.com.

Low was said to have made key financial decisions linked to 1MDB, although he did not hold any official positions in Malaysia.

He has denied any wrongdoing and his current whereabouts are unknown.

After the boat seizure, a spokesman for Low said the US Justice Department had officially delayed its efforts to seize assets last year.

A US court reportedly granted a stay after a request from authorities, as they believed that the civil proceedings could affect a criminal probe that they were also conducting.

Low’s spokesman last week said the Justice Department had “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 [Department of Justice] is continuing with its pattern of global overreach — all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing,” he said.

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