THE US$250mil superyacht at the centre of Malaysia’s multi-billion dollar state fund scandal is reportedly headed to the country following Indonesia’s decision to hand over the vessel to the neighbouring government.
According to The Star, The Equanimity, which authorities said was owned by fugitive businessman, Low Taek Jho, has arrived in the Indonesian island of Batam on Monday morning.
A source told the daily the vessel was navigating through the busy waterway along the Singapore Strait at eight knots on its way to the Batu Ampar port, but did not head to the port as scheduled.
As at 9.30am Monday, the yacht was anchored near the Pulau Nong lighthouse near Tering Bay.
“The vessel would be docked in Batam, waiting for further instructions from Jakarta on when it would be handed over to the Malaysian authorities,” the source said.
Last week, Indonesia agreed to hand over the luxury yacht it impounded in Bali earlier this year in connection with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad corruption scandal.
In February US and Indonesian authorities moved to seize the yacht as part of an investigation by the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
In April, an Indonesian court ruled the yacht was wrongfully impounded and instructed authorities to release it back to its owners.
However, Indonesian police seized the boat for the second time in July following a formal request for legal assistance from the United States.
“The yacht will be handed over at the border between Indonesia and Malaysia’s waters,” Daniel Silitonga, deputy director for economic and special crimes at the Indonesian national police force’s Criminal Investigation Agency told Reuters.
“We have to maintain the good relations between the two countries,” he said.
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.
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.
Low’s whereabouts are unknown but he has previously denied wrongdoing.