The government intends to ultimately sell the superyacht Equanimity after all necessary paperwork has been done along with a possible public viewing of the luxury vessel, said Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
“Attorney-general (Tommy Thomas) will make sure all the papers are in order, all controls are imposed and if possible to make sure that there is a proper inventory of the assets inside.
“And if possible, I hope that the public can also view it. But probably not the entire ship, just a portion (of it),” he told a press conference at the Parliament lobby today.
Following that, Lim said the government would attempt to sell the RM1 billion luxury vessel to the highest bidder.
“As the Finance Ministry, we want to get the best value. So after it has been viewed, the yacht must be sold so the people of the country can get something.
“I don’t know how much (money) we can crawl back but we should try to get as much as possible,” he added.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu also welcomed the entry of the yacht into Malaysian waters and hoped to personally view it.
“I am very proud that a 1MDB asset has come back to Malaysia and we hope that the police and authorities will take action (based on) Malaysian and international law.
“I also want to go and experience the ship because we have never seen such a luxurious ship,” he told members of the press at the Parliament lobby.
The Equanimity is expected to dock in Malaysia tomorrow.
Lim expects Thomas to issue a statement on what Malaysia intends to with it.
Earlier today, The Star quoted an unnamed source that senior Malaysian marine police officers had been in Batam to receive the vessel, and at least four marine police personnel will accompany the vessel and its crew to Malaysia.
Tycoon Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, had allegedly bought the RM1 billion vessel through intermediaries using funds misappropriated from 1MDB, according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
On Feb 28 this year, Indonesians boarded and seized the vessel off the coast of Bali, sparking a legal battle between Low’s lawyers and Indonesian and US authorities over who should have custody over the vessel.
It is unclear the handover to Malaysia would affect the legal proceedings, particularly those that are still pending in the US.
When asked about this today, Lim seemed unworried.
“All this is possible because of discussions and negotiations with DOJ (with Malaysia).
“Let the AG explain (whether Malaysia will keep the yacht) but I think that (how) the yacht is here speaks for itself,” he said.
The DOJ over the weekend regarding the court proceedings in the US, but has yet to receive a response.
The DOJ had sued for the forfeiture of the vessel, as part of a series of 30 civil forfeiture suits to seize properties allegedly linked to the misappropriation of 1MDB that had been channelled through the US financial system.
To date, the case itself is still pending, while the US Central California District Court had granted the US government protective custody over the vessel to bring it back to US waters for sale pending the final disposal of the case.
Jho Low retorts
In an immediate response, Low’s lawyer James F Haggerty reiterated that the handover to Malaysian authorities proved that Mahathir has no interest in the rule of law, and ignores court rulings in the US and Indonesia.
“Mahathir has chosen to bring the asset illegally into a rigged Malaysian system manipulated by a man who only cares about his absolute political rule. It is ultimately justice that suffers.
“Since his election, Mahathir has tried reinventing his public image following the appalling abuses of the rule of law he previously presided over, including the Anwar case and the 1988 judicial crisis.
“The reality is that he has simply continued on as he did during his previous regime and has shown that his only objectives are political: from freezing bank accounts of rival political parties, to public trial-by-media, where guilt is proclaimed before any evidence is presented,” he said in a statement today.
He said the yacht’s registered owner Equanimity Cayman Limited had already filed a claim on the vessel, and have filed further proceedings today in response to the latest development.
However, he did not mention in which jurisdiction the new proceedings have been filed.