Lawyer: DoJ seizure of Equanimity violates US constitution

A lawyer has claimed that the seizure of Equanimity in Bali impairs the integrity of the US courts and violates the country’s constitution. (Reuters pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Last week’s seizure of super yacht Equanimity by the Indonesian authorities at the request of the US Department of Justice (DoJ) impairs the integrity of the US courts and violates its constitution, a senior lawyer said today.

Quintin Rozario, a Malaysian-born solicitor based in Brisbane, Australia, said that over the years many commentators and critics had expressed concern over the Civil Forfeiture Act that was used by the DoJ to legitimise the seizure of the yacht which it alleged is owned by Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, or better known as Jho Low.

He said that while the US Constitution was based on the principle of equality and justification applicable to the implementation and enforceability of all its laws, the Civil Forfeiture Act was “being applied as a blunt instrument of oppression and economic warfare by successive US administrations to enforce their will on smaller nations”.

Rozario also supported the view of Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak that the DoJ had not shown any “tangible proof” that Low is the owner of the yacht seized in Bali on Feb 28.

The seizure was part of the DoJ investigation started in 2016 into Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

“The DoJ has yet to prove any of its allegations in a court of law despite nearly two years passing since its sensationalised press conference in July 2016,” said Salleh.

Rozario said: “The fact is that the DoJ is seeking to confiscate property belonging to certain individuals said to have swindled 1MDB and not the property of 1MDB itself. That excuse in itself is suspect when one considers that 1MDB was not the complainant against these individuals or a complainant at all.

“1MDB is the only party with legal standing to raise a complaint and to bring an action for recovery of its assets in such matters.”

The lawyer said that although under the act it was sufficient to merely suspect a defendant of having committed a crime and to make the connection between the seized property and the commission of a criminal offence to justify the forfeiture, only a court of law had the power to decide if a crime had been committed.

Rozario described the Civil Forfeiture Act as a “bad law” and said no civilised nation ought to give credence to its enforcement or co-operate with executing its provisions within their borders.

Low had issued a statement immediately after the yacht seizure, slamming the DoJ for “global outreach” and claiming he was a victim of political persecution.