Lawyers representing the company Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd are asking a US court to direct the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to clarify whether the US government had a role in the superyacht Equanimity’s handover to Malaysian authorities.
They noted that while DOJ officials claim that the US government had no involvement in the handover, Malaysian attorney-general Tommy Thomas had issued a press statement thanking the US government for helping to bring the yacht to Malaysian waters.
They said they believe that the US government’s assurances are genuine and that the Malaysian government had excluded the US from its plans to seize the vessel, and subsequently made false or inaccurate statements regarding US involvement in the handover.
The lawyers requested “a thorough clarification as to whether any US government agencies or officials had any advance knowledge of, involvement or participation in, and/or gave approval or acquiescence to” the yacht’s transfer to the Malaysian government.
“If there was any such knowledge, involvement, participation, approval, or acquiescence, claimants respectfully request that the court direct the US government to provide all details of such.
“Finally, and as part of the preceding clarifications, claimants request that the US government be directed to clarify its position on whether the Malaysian Attorney-General’s Chambers issued an inaccurate statement,” the lawyers said.
The request was made through a court filing, dated Aug 9, made at the Central California District Court, where the lawyers had been contesting a DOJ civil forfeiture suit against the yacht.
Malaysiakini has sighted a copy of the court filing.
Questioning DOJ lawyers
Bloomberg had quoted a spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, Thom Mrozek, as saying on Aug 7 that the US is not a party to negotiations between Malaysia and Indonesia regarding the Equanimity.
However, Thomas issued a press release the same day, saying that Equanimity’s arrival in Port Klang was the result of mutual legal assistance treaties between Indonesia, Malaysia and the US.
“We would like to express our profound gratitude to the governments of Indonesia and the United States, especially the Republic of Indonesia Police (Polri) in extending cooperation and collaboration to us to enable this to be accomplished,” Thomas (photo) had added.
The Equanimity Ltd lawyers said in their latest court filing that they had asked DOJ lawyers about Thomas’ press release and were told that the US government stands by its assertion that it has no involvement or participation in the transfer of the yacht into Malaysian custody.
An email correspondence dated Aug 8 from US attorney John Kucera to Equanimity Ltd lawyer Jeremy D Matz was included as an exhibit in the court filing.
The email reads, “The (US) government stands by its earlier representations to you regarding, as you put it, any US ‘involvement or participation in the transfer of the yacht to Malaysian custody’.
“Also, we disagree with your interpretation of the Malaysian attorney-general’s August 7, 2018, press release.
“We expect that we will be able to be more fulsome in our anticipated update to be filed with the court on Aug 17.”
The Equanimity was first seized by Indonesian authorities on Feb 28.
The yacht has since been the subject of a legal battle between the DOJ and Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd. The latter is allegedly owned by Penang-born financier Low Taek Jho through intermediaries.
The DOJ's suit against the yacht is one of 30 civil forfeiture suits the agency has filed to seize properties allegedly bought through funds misappropriated from 1MDB, which had been channelled through the US financial system.
Despite these developments, Indonesia had the yacht brought to the Batam Free Trade Zone where it was handed over to Malaysian authorities on Aug 6. The Equanimity arrived in Port Klang the following day.