PETALING JAYA: Lawyers today urged Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to refrain from commenting on the government’s plan to sell a luxury yacht linked to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho in a bid to recover the money allegedly stolen from 1MDB.
Lawyer Rafique Rashid Ali said the minister should not jump the gun by revealing the government’s plans to sell the Equanimity.
“Get a conviction against those who are allegedly involved in money-laundering offences.
“If the prosecutor obtains a conviction over the said crimes, they should go through proper channels to dispose the said asset to recover losses to the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, senior lawyer Kitson Foong said Lim or any Cabinet member should refrain from making statements on the sale of the Equanimity.
“He should seek the AG’s (attorney-general’s) advice before commenting. This kind of comment is not for him to make.
“Even Tun (Dr Mahathir Mohamad) was careful in commenting. So he should listen to his boss,” he said, referring to the prime minister’s comment yesterday that whoever owns the yacht should come forward to claim ownership.
Foong also said Lim’s remark on selling the Equanimity could open up the risk of a civil lawsuit against the government by Low or anyone who came forward as the owner.
Under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (Amla), the public prosecutor can forfeit properties allegedly belonging to those involved in money laundering offences.
Foong said although no criminal charges had been made against the fugitive businessman, the prosecutor could still proceed with the forfeiture process in court.
Yesterday, Lim said the government might sell the Equanimity, said to be Low’s, to get back the money allegedly stolen from 1MDB.
He said if the government received a good offer for the yacht, they would sell it.
The Equanimity arrived in Malaysian waters at around 12.40pm today.
On Saturday, it was reported that Indonesia had agreed to hand the yacht over to Malaysia.
Indonesian authorities impounded the yacht in Bali in February at the request of US authorities as part of a multi-billion dollar corruption investigation related to 1MDB launched by the US Department of Justice.
An Indonesian court ruling in April declared that the yacht was wrongfully impounded and should be released to the owner.
Indonesian police seized the yacht again in July following a formal request for legal assistance from the US.