Seizure of Equanimity lawful, says minister

The RM1 billion Equanimity is at the centre of US investigations into 1MDB.

KUALA LUMPUR: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong told the Dewan Rakyat today that Malaysia’s seizure of the Equanimity yacht was lawful and according to procedure.

The de facto law minister said claims by businessman Low Taek Jho’s lawyer that the government had infringed on the legal processes of other nations were not true.

“The US government agreed that the Indonesian government hand over the yacht to Malaysia.

“Accusations that we have infringed on the legal processes of other nations are baseless,” he said.

Azalina Othman Said (BN-Pengerang) had asked the prime minister to state the degree of truthfulness of the allegation by Low’s lawyer that the seizure of the yacht by the federal government was invalid.

Liew (PH-Batu Sapi) said the government had complete information that Low, better known as Jho Low, was the owner of the Equanimity.

“The affidavit has already been filed by the government to support the issuance of the arrest warrant to the defendant, as well as the superyacht.

“Now we are waiting for Low to claim the yacht which is said to be his. We are awaiting his return,” he said.

Liew also told the Dewan Rakyat that the government would seek a court declaration that 1MDB is the owner of the superyacht.

“The government’s objective is to ask for the ship to be sold and a declaration that 1MDB is the legal and beneficial owner of the vessel or part owner in proportion to its respective shares, to the extent that the money and properties were used by 1MDB on behalf of the defendant to buy the ship.

“We are also seeking a court order for the proceeds of the sale of the vessel to be given to the 1MDB group in accordance with and to the extent of the ownership of the vessel,” he added.

Jho Low recently criticised Dr Mahathir Mohamad over the seizure of the Equanimity, a day after the prime minister visited the luxury yacht and said the government wanted to sell it off as soon as possible as its value could depreciate.

Jho Low said the handover of the yacht to Malaysian authorities had brought out in the open legal repercussions for the buyer.

He insisted that the seizure was illegal, adding that Malaysia was “putting words into the mouth” of the US authorities by saying the yacht’s arrival in Malaysia last week was after negotiations with the Americans.

He also condemned what he called a “trial by media” by Mahathir’s administration.

The US$250 million (RM1 billion) Equanimity has been held at a cruise centre in Port Klang since its arrival in Malaysian waters last Tuesday.

It is at the centre of US investigations into state investment firm 1MDB, and linked to Jho Low, who allegedly acquired the yacht with funds plundered from 1MDB.

Indonesian police seized the yacht at the request of the US authorities and handed it over to Malaysia after a recent visit by Mahathir to the country.