1MDB files application to sell superyacht Equanimity

PETALING JAYA: The 1MDB group has made an application to the High Court to sell the RM1 billion luxury yacht Equanimity which is currently under Malaysian custody.

Court documents sighted by FMT revealed that the application, filed on Tuesday evening, stated that the sale was necessary due to the vessel’s high maintenance cost.

Case management has been fixed for tomorrow.

In the application, the plaintiffs 1MDB Global Investments Ltd, 1MDB Energy Holdings Ltd, 1MDB and the Malaysian government asked for the sheriff or court registrar to sell the yacht by way of public auction or private treaty.

It said the payment, to be made in either US dollars, ringgit or euro, must be put in an interest-bearing account pending the outcome of the suit.

This came as the presumed ship owner, who is based in the Cayman Islands and named as the defendant, failed to file any application to set aside the warrant of arrest or challenge the declaration sought by the plaintiffs within the 14-day period which expired on Tuesday.

The plaintiffs, who obtained a warrant of arrest for the vessel on Aug 6, had also filed for a declaration that they were the owners of the yacht as it had been bought with money stolen from 1MDB.

They also sought an order to sell the vessel with the proceeds handed to the rightful owner after a court hearing on the declaration.

Businessman Low Taek Jho, who is said to own the yacht through a company, has claimed that the seizure was illegal. He also accused Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad of disrespecting the rule of law.

Both Mahathir and Attorney-General Tommy Thomas however maintain that the seizure was legal and done according to admiralty laws.

They have also challenged Low, better known as Jho Low, to set aside the warrant of arrest and contest the declaration sought by the plaintiffs.

Lawyer Arun Kasi said he believed the order for sale application was made soon after the 14-day period as the maintenance cost of the Equanimity was “enormous”.

It was previously reported that it would cost about RM3 million to maintain the vessel and its crew.

“The value on such a sale is highly dubious, given that it is an ultra-luxurious yacht,” Arun added.

He said once a ship had been seized, the law required the owner to file an appearance within 14 days.

“Strangely, so far no lawyer has appeared for the owner of the Equanimity, and no appearance has been filed,” he said.

However, he added that the 1MDB group could not rule out the possibility of the owner coming to contest the declaration sought.

On the face of records, he said, the owner of the ship was a company, not an individual.

He said if the owner contested the suit, the burden would be on the plaintiffs to prove on a balance of probabilities that funds from 1MDB were used to purchase the vessel.

He added that the plaintiff could not rely on hearsay evidence but might have to rely on the testimony of US Department of Justice personnel in the Malaysian court.

If the owner failed to contest, he said, 1MDB would in all likelihood apply for a default judgment.