US applies to suspend court action as ‘superyacht’ nears Port Klang

A view of Port Klang, where luxury yacht Equanimity is expected to arrive at noon.

KUALA LUMPUR: The US Department of Justice (DoJ) wants to suspend its legal efforts to take possession of the superyacht Equanimity, impounded as part of a hunt for assets linked to the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal.

Indonesia agreed to hand over the US$250 million Equanimity to Malaysia on Monday.

DoJ, which had sought custody of Equanimity as part of its anti-kleptocracy investigation into 1MDB, said proceedings in the US courts should be suspended until it finds out what Malaysia would do with the yacht.

“The government proposes that all proceedings in this action be suspended in order to give the government and any interested claimant the opportunity to inquire of Malaysia through formal channels what its intentions are with respect to the defendant yacht,” it said in a filing to the California Central District Court on Monday.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told reporters yesterday that the government planned to take inventory of items on the yacht and open the vessel for public viewing, before eventually selling it “at the highest price”.

A total of US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to civil lawsuits filed by DoJ.

Authorities are seeking to arrest Low Taek Jho, the financier who allegedly bought the Equanimity, a 91-metre yacht registered in the Cayman Islands. Lawsuits have identified him as a central figure in the 1MDB scandal, but his whereabouts are unknown.

Meanwhile, owners of Equanimity said in a separate filing to a US court that it is opposed to any suspension of proceedings and contested the handover of the vessel to Malaysia.

They filed a petition in the US court challenging what it said was the “unlawful and extrajudicial” seizure of the yacht. The petition questioned the lawfulness of a warrant issued by the Indonesian police to turnover the vessel to Malaysia.

The yacht is expected to reach Port Klang at noon today.