Attorneys for Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, nicknamed Jho Low, said their client would hand over the US$250m superyacht Equanimity to US authorities if a California federal judge orders it to be seized.
Superyacht Equanimity has been caught in a months-long legal battle between US authorities and Low’s attorneys since February, when the yacht was impounded in Indonesia. Last month, a national court in Indonesia cleared the yacht to leave the country, arguing that Indonesian police and the US FBI did not follow established protocol when seizing the yacht.
US officials claim that Low purchased his yacht from money siphoned from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd sovereign wealth fund. A federal judge in Los Angeles will issue an order shortly on the Justice Department’s request to take custody of Equanimity. The judge signalled that she would most likely order in favour of the US government agency.
Low’s lawyers told Bloomberg.com they would appeal such an order but would comply if the order was upheld.
Equanimity is part of US$1.5bn in total assets that the US Just Department says Low purchased in US with the alleged stolen 1MDB funds.
According to Malaysian news sources, the 1MDB fund was a contentious issue in last week’s election between former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his opponent Mahathir Mohamad. Mahatir, former prime minister of Malaysia, took back his former position in a surprise victory. Mahathir plans to reopen a graft probe targeting the wealth fund. He also instructed Malaysia’s auditor-general to declassify a 1MDB report that was protected by the Official Secrets Act. Mahathir repeatedly called Najib a “thief” on the campaign trail.
Low’s lawyers are divided with the US Justice Department about where Equanimity should be sold, if the US court orders the sale. Low’s attorney’s want it sold in the Mediterranean, rather than US, which they argue is a better market for superyacht sales.