KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has approved an application by 1MDB to sell the Equanimity, the RM1 billion luxury yacht linked to businessman Low Taek Jho, who is accused of embezzling funds from the state firm.
The ex-parte order was obtained after lawyers for 1MDB Global Investments Ltd, 1MDB Energy Holdings Ltd, 1MDB and the Malaysian government made their submission in chambers before judicial commissioner Khadijah Idris.
“The order to sell the ship has been granted pursuant to determining any action,” lawyer Ong Chee Kwan told reporters today.
He said the plaintiffs informed the court that the sale was necessary as the cost of maintaining the yacht, which is currently kept at a cruise centre in Port Klang, was high.
“The proceeds will diminish if we waited much longer,” Ong said, adding that the sale process would begin soon.
He said the sale should be completed by the year-end by way of public tender and the proceeds would be kept in an interest-bearing account.
Ong said a valuer would be appointed to appraise the ship.
The plaintiffs filed for sale on Tuesday evening, stating the sale was necessary due to the vessel’s high maintenance cost.
In the application, the plaintiffs asked for the sheriff or court registrar to sell the yacht by way of a public auction or private treaty.
It said the payment, to be made in either US dollars, ringgit or euros, must be placed in an interest-bearing account pending the outcome of the suit.
This came about as the presumed ship owner, who is based in the Cayman Islands and named as the defendant, failed to file to enter an appearance 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.
Lawyer Jeremy M Joseph, a lawyer appointed by the government to handle the suit, said the shipowner did not appoint any counsel to respond to the order for sale nor the declaration sought.
“We filed the application (the order for sale) on Tuesday as no one entered an appearance for the shipowner,” he said.
Joseph said the plaintiffs were using the admiralty laws to arrest the ship and ensure the new owner would get a good title to the vessel.
He said the plaintiffs would apply to get a default judgment on the declaration sought if no parties turned up to contest the suit.
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 for the ship and contest the declaration sought by the plaintiffs.