Commentary Politics

Let not the Equanimity be a long-drawn (losing) tussle

Mahathir (left) and "Fats". The jet next?

Mahathir (left) and "Fats". The jet next?

Written by Aziz Hassan

August 13, 2018

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

WITHOUT knowing precisely what his nose looks like, what you have heard from Malaysian press reports about a certain Mr. Low Taek Jho aka Jho-Low may be enough for you to consider him as one despicable Malaysian who doesn’t have enough guts to return home to face the music.

But honestly, how many characters in a similar situation would, if they are absolutely certain that they’ll be greeted not by friends as they take their first few steps back on Malaysian soil but rather a team of law enforcers? What follows immediately would be a freeze on their bank accounts, a ban on travel overseas plus a search of all known real estate they own. Mind you, this before they are charged in court. Under these circumstances, how many would willingly return?

Back to the more current issues at hand.

For now we have a super-yacht the ownership of which is believed to be Low’s – or let’s just call him Fats — after Indonesia agreed to release it from their police custody to Malaysia, a move some commented on social media was most convenient because it takes away from Bali one burden Indonesia doesn’t need.

Malaysian Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said the return of the mega Equanimity to Malaysia was a result of behind the scene discussions with Indonesia and the United States but a government attorney from the latter denied this was the case, a point not lost on Fats’ lawyers.

Since the yacht arrived safely last week to berth in Port Klang, which could be its home for many months to come, Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, a few ministers and the top brass from the military and police have toured it, with Mahathir later telling the press that the US had confirmed the yacht to be Fats’ that was bought with money stolen from Malaysia and that Malaysia is free to do what it wants with the Equanimity.

The problem is while the US is the world’s most powerful country in many aspects, no one can simply take its statement to the market for second-hand yachts and hope potential buyers would feel comfortable considering the Equanimity as another toy. Apart from information on what it found to be the money trail from 1Malaysia Development Berhad to Fats’ pockets, as stated in filings by its Department of Justice in a civil suit, there is nothing to say that titles or grants attesting to the ownership of Equanimity are safely in its hands.

The wiser amongst Malaysians would tell you that these papers must be in safe-keeping somewhere by Fats’ lawyers or business managers, which must be why the man has reacted to caution that anyone who buys the Equanimity from the Malaysian government could end up with legal complications.

That makes a lot of sense, which is why trying to find a buyer for Equanimity soonest possible is not going to be a piece of cake. Selling something that lawfully is owned by someone else even if he or she has used dirty money the origin of which you have not proven makes you too a thief, no different from Mr. Fats you say is one.

Thus judging from what is known so far, trying to dispose of the yacht is likely to take many months, which adds up to the maintenance and other costs, with the maintenance a most critical element if Malaysia hopes to get a decent price for it.

Then there’s the legal cost, commission for the marketing agent, tax and some other elements a seller can’t avoid.

Even if eventually Malaysia finds a lawful way to sell it, the super-rich like Bill Gates, Roman Abramovich or Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal are not into buying used items. On the contrary Abramovich has one that is better fitted while Al-Waleed has no hesitation in ordering something much, much better than everyone else if he so desires.

Now we hear that Malaysia is trying to persuade Singapore to hand over a private jet said to be belonged to Fats which the republic apparently impounded last year. There were many media reports on this but an official statement on the impounding could not be found online.

But just like the yacht, trying to sell of a bird like this is also not going to be easy due to similar factors as mentioned above. Furthermore there appears to be a big depreciation in the prices of second-hand jets due to the ever increasing maintenance each additional year.

 

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.