OWNERS of the Equanimity, the US$250 million superyacht at the centre of the Malaysian state fund scandal, claims it has yet to receive a legal notice on the government’s move to sell the seized vessel.
A statement by Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd, the company claiming ownership of the vessel, came several hours before the matter was scheduled for a court hearing on Friday.
“Despite being owners of the yacht in question, Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd. has received no legally valid notice of any filing related to a Sale Pendente Lite, nor any notice of a pending court hearing in the matter,” it said in a statement received by Asian Correspondent.
“This would be a requirement under law.”
The superyacht, which is purportedly owned by fugitive Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho (Jho Low), is at the centre of the long-running 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) state fund scandal.
1MDB is the subject of several 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.
Among other assets, The Equanimity is cited as a 92-metre yacht bought by 1MDB alleged financier Low, named as a key figure in the US lawsuits. He has previously denied wrongdoing.
Low’s whereabouts is not immediately but it is believed he is either in China or Abu Dhabi.
Meanwhile on Friday, Malaysian police filed the first set of criminal charges against Low and his father over money allegedly stolen from 1MDB, The Edge Markets reported. Warrants for their arrests were also sought, the publication wrote.
The charges for money laundering were brought against Low and his father (Larry) Low Hock Peng “in absentia”, paving the way for authorities to seek an extradition of the two men from wherever they were seeking asylum. Malaysian law stipulates that the accused must physically be present in the court dock to record a plea in order for a trial to proceed.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was ousted in a shock election defeat in May, set up 1MDB in 2009 and previously served as chairman of its advisory board. He and the fund have denied any wrongdoing.
Malaysia’s new government led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad has vowed to bring the perpetrators of the scandal to justice and recoup the billions of dollars lost to the colossal graft case.
Following the election, the new government has replaced key individuals in 1MDB, which reports to the Finance Ministry. Yesterday, the state fund and three other parties made a court filing for the sale of the yacht to be expedited.
According to The Star, 1MDB, its two subsidiaries, 1MDB Energy Holdings Ltd and 1MDB Global Investment Ltd, and the government have named the owner of the ship as the sole defendant.
Equanimity Ltd said the sale was “a remarkable violation of due process and international legal comity” and pointed out proceedings taking place in US courts regarding the custody of the asset.
“For Malaysia to act unilaterally while there are pending court requests in the US would be an affront to the international rule of law,” the company claimed.
“In fact, Malaysia’s seizure of the vessel is already contrary to a US court order appointing the US Government as custodian of the yacht.”
The company stressed that it was “indisputably clear” that Malaysia’s seizure of the vessel and the “fire sale” of the vessel will subject it to drastic devaluation.
“Due to the Malaysian government’s precipitous, ill-conceived, and misguided actions, the yacht is running 24 hours per day, 7 days a week on generator power, which is unsustainable and harmful to the vessel,” the company said.
“Moreover, Malaysia has currently docked the yacht in a hazardous environment in which toxins such as water pollution and nearby smoke are greatly damaging it.”