THE luxury yacht under the US investigation into a corruption scandal involving a Malaysian state fund was wrongfully impounded in Bali, an Indonesian court ruled on Tuesday.
Justice Ratmoho told a hearing at the South Jakarta District Court that the seizure of the Cayman Islands-flagged Equanimity by Indonesian police, at the request of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), did not comply with proper procedure.
The judge also ordered the vessel to be released, according to the Straits Times,
“We declare the confiscation by police as invalid and legally baseless,” the judge was quoted as saying.
The Equanimity was impounded by Indonesia in February as part of a multi-billion dollar corruption investigation launched by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and tied to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Rudy Heriyanto Adi, the Director of Indonesia’s Special Economic Crimes unit, told a news conference that since the ruling was final, police would return the ship to its owner Equanimity Cayman Ltd.
A lawyer representing the owner of the ship, which the United States had said was bought by Jho Low, a key financier linked to 1MDB, welcomed the ruling.
“It’s clear that the seizure of the ship only happened because there was a request from the FBI but it was not based on law. But with this ruling it is clear all foreign requests must follow procedure,” lawyer Andi Simangungsong told Reuters.
1MDB is at the centre of money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.
Civil lawsuits filed by the DOJ listed a total of US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates.
In August 2017, the DOJ asked for a stay on its civil lawsuits seeking to seize more than US$1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds because it was conducting a related criminal probe.
Among the assets sought is Equanimity, cited as a 92-metre yacht bought by Malaysian financier Low, named as a key figure in the US lawsuits.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak set up 1MDB in 2009 and previously served as chairman of its advisory board. He and the fund have denied any wrongdoing.
Low’s whereabouts are unknown but he has previously denied wrongdoing.