KUALA LUMPUR: Embattled financier Jho Low is asking the US to declare what it knows about the transfer of a US$250-million super yacht to Malaysia from Indonesia. The Justice Department had sought to seize the boat as part of its 1MDB probe.
Lawyers representing Low Taek Jho filed a notice on Monday to a California district court to direct the US government to reveal its knowledge of the yacht’s transfer. Low also wants the US to state any efforts it has made to secure the vessel in a status report by Aug 17, and say what actions the US has taken to get clarification of Malaysia’s intentions.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles, said the US was not party to the agreement between Indonesia and Malaysia.
The yacht, which was seized by Indonesian police in February, is among the US$1.7 billion of assets that US investigators said were illegally bought using money diverted from the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad thanked Indonesian President Joko Widodo for his cooperation in transferring the vessel, while calling for its owner to prove that the source of funds used to purchase it was legitimate and not from 1MDB.
Low’s lawyers oppose the US government’s request to suspend proceedings to allow it to find out what Malaysia plans to do with the asset, as the government isn’t entitled to imposing “undefined, indefinite” delays, they said in the filing.
Mahathir is seeking to reclaim US$4.5 billion of funds potentially lost through the troubled state fund, including by trying to recover fees from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and taking legal action to recoup compensation paid to the fund’s ex-president. Malaysia is considering selling the yacht and returning the funds to the public, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said on Monday, adding that Attorney-General Tommy Thomas will first ensure proper proceedings are followed. Thomas is set to make an announcement on Tuesday.
Malaysia has issued an arrest warrant for Low, who remains at large. The police received information from their Macau counterparts that he had left the territory for an unknown location as of early July, with no further insight on his whereabouts.