KUALA LUMPUR – August 24, 2018: The Malaysian government has embarked on what appears to be a legally unusual flash-sale of a multi-million-dollar super yacht that it officially does not own.
The sale of the Equanimity – which the Admiralty Court here had given the go-ahead today – should be done in about two or three months, said the plaintiff’s lawyers Jeremy M. Joseph and Ong Chee Kwan.
The yacht is among more than USD$1.7 billion in assets that the United States claims through the filing of a civil forfeiture complaint on July 21 that was bought by Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho and his accomplices with money they were alleged to have siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
It is engulfed in an ownership dispute, with the Malaysian government claiming that the yacht was bought using Malaysian tax payers’ money stolen by Low.
“The vessel is a diminishing asset. It must be sold as soon as possible as its value will drop the longer we keep it,” stated Ong at press conference after a closed proceeding with Judicial Commissioner Datuk Khadijah Idris.
The flash-sale, Ong explained, is necessary due to the yacht’s high maintenance cost, a factor which seems to suggest was overlooked by the Malaysian government when it docked the yacht at Port Klang on August 7 after being allowed to be taken here from Bali by Indonesia.
Low has condemned today’s hearing as a vindictive sham, claiming that the Malaysian government had violated international laws.
He described the docking as unlawful as the yacht was supposed to be delivered to the US as part of the Department of Justice’s probe linked to 1MDB.
On a poser if Equanimity’s buyer would be subjected to a further legal tangle, Joseph insisted that any prospective buyer will be freed from any encumbrances
“An admiralty sale (the flash-sale) will give a clean title to the buyer regardless of the action in Malaysia. So pending the determination of the vessel’s ownership, the court has vested powers to sell the vessel pending litigation.
“The money will be placed in court and whoever is declared the owner will be able to claim it from the court,” said Joseph, adding that their next step is to get Equanimity valued.
Joseph and Ong are also representing 1MDB and its subsidiary 1MDB Holdings Limited.