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Owner fights to keep M/Y Equanimity in Bali

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Updated: March 29, 2018

Owner fights to keep M/Y Equanimity in Bali

Lawyers who are are fighting a U.S. forfeiture lawsuit on behalf of a trust that claims ownership of the M/Y Equanimity filed a request in a California court on Monday for an emergency order to keep the yacht anchored in Bali for 30 days, according to news reports.
The 300-foot Oceanco yacht, reportedly worth $250 million, was seized off the coast of Bali in February as part of a corruption investigation launched by the U.S. Justice Department. The DOJ has accused Malayasian financier Jho Low, who bought Equanimity in 2014, of using billions of dollars siphoned from from a Malaysian state investment fund intended for economic development.
The DOJ is seeking to move the yacht to the U.S., where it can be taken into government custody and sold, according to California court filings. The DOJ, which asserts that Low bought the yacht with funds stolen from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), said he is fighting the U.S. seizure through four companies named as claimants in the case, according to news reports.
Lawyers for the claimants had previously filed a lawsuit in Indonesia seeking to stop the U.S. seizure of the yacht. In Monday’s court filing, they wrote: “The government does not know how to properly maintain or market a luxury yacht as unique and distinctive as the M/Y ‘Equanimity,” according to court records
“For instance, the government is contemplating reducing the number of crew members from more than 20 to just eight, a number so low that it would endanger the lives of the crew on board and wreak havoc on the condition of the yacht,” they wrote. The lawyers also state that moving the yacht to the U.S. would lower its value.
The DOJ, in a response filed Tuesday, stated that keeping the yacht in Indonesia could risk interfering with sovereign rights. Citing a 2017 Global Superyachts Market Analysis report in which North America held a 45 percent market share for the sale of superyachts, the Justice Department’s response stated that there is no evidence a sale in the U.S. would diminish the yacht’s value, according to court records.
A total of $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to civil lawsuits filed by the U.S. DOJ. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak set up 1MDB in 2009. He and the fund have denied any wrongdoing.
Along with the yacht, the U.S. DOJ seeks recovery of other assets linked to stolen 1MDB funds, including more than $5 million worth of diamond jewelry Low gave his then-girlfriend, actress Miranda Kerr; a New York hotel and other real estate in London, New York and Beverly Hills; a $107 million interest in EMI Music Publishing; and a $35 million Bombardier jet.
Low’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Updated: March 20, 2018

Owner challenges seizure of Equanimity in Bali

Lawyers representing the owner of M/Y Equanimity have challenged Indonesia’s seizure of the yacht as part of a U.S. investigation into an alleged  theft of funds from a Malaysian state investment company, according to news reports.

Indonesian authorities, who seized the 300-foot yacht off Bali on Feb. 28 in a joint operation with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, have said they are awaiting a court hearing on the owner’s challenge before the yacht can be handed over to the U.S. 

The yacht, which is worth $250 million, is among assets the  U.S. Justice Department alleges were bought using money stolen in a $4.5 billion fraud case involving Malaysian state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd, according to news reports.

According to the US Department of Justice, the yacht is owned by 36-year-old Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, who is said to be Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak’s confidante and business adviser. Investment fund 1MDB is Najib’s brainchild, according to Malaysian news reports. The money had been intended for economic development in the region. 

The U.S. Justice Department has filed civil lawsuits during the past two years in an effort to recover about $540 million that the department said had been allegedly misappropriated from the fund and laundered through Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg and the U.S.

FBI agents and Bali investigators boarded the Equanimity after it anchored off Nusa Dua, a five-star hotel enclave, according to news reports, The FBI alleges the yacht had been attempting to evade them in Southeast Asian waters. The Wall Street Journal reports the yacht had disabled its automated identification system (AIS) when passing between the Philippines and Singapore to avoid detection.

An attorney for the yacht crew was reported to have said the AIS was turned off to avoid pirates in the area and was later turned back on. The lawyer said other vessels transiting the area also received piracy warnings from local authorities.

Low issued a statement via a spokesman criticizing the DOJ of “global overreach” after the seizure, according to news reports. His whereabouts is unknown.

Bali police say they have questioned the Equanimity’s captain and some of the crew. The FBI say the captain, a South African, is now a suspect in the fraud case, according to reports. The crew reportedly remains on board the yacht and are not under arrest. 

Original post March 1, 2018

The U.S. has sent a team to Bali to reclaim M/Y Equanimity, a yacht seized by Indonesian authorities Feb. 28 in a $4.5 billion fraud case involving Malaysian state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd, according to news reports.
Daniel Silitonga, Indonesian deputy director of economic and special crimes in the Central Police Department, said the prosecutors have been in Jakarta for the past week, Malaysian news sources have reported.

“The prosecution team came last week for purposes of legal coordination between Indonesia and the United States,” Silitonga was quoted as saying. He also said the case is now in American hands as the primary investigating authority.
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and Bali investigators boarded the Equanimity after it anchored off Nusa Dua, a five-star hotel enclave, according to news reports, The FBI alleges the 299-foot (91m) yacht had been attempting to evade them in Southeast Asian waters. The Wall Street Journal reports the yacht had disabled its automated identification system (AIS) when passing between the Philippines and Singapore to avoid detection.

An attorney for the yacht crew was reported to have said the AIS was turned off to avoid pirates in the area and was later turned back on. The lawyer said other vessels transiting the area also received piracy warnings from local authorities.

According to the US Department of Justice, the yacht is owned by 36-year-old Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, who is said to be Prime Minister Najib Razak’s confidante and business adviser. Investment fund 1MDB is Najib’s brainchild, according to Malaysian news reports.

The U.S. Justice Department has filed civil lawsuits during the past two years in an effort to recover about $540 million that the department said had been allegedly misappropriated from the fund. The money is intended for economic development in the region. The investigation covers at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

It is alleged the yacht was bought with $250 million of the money diverted from Malaysian government sources through US financial institutions.

Low issued a statement via a spokesman criticizing the DOJ of “global overreach” after the seizure, according to news reports. His whereabouts is unknown.

Bali police say they have questioned the Equanimity’s captain and some of the crew. The FBI say the captain, a South African, is now a suspect in the fraud case, according to reports.

The crew reportedly remains on board the yacht and are not under arrest. How long their vessel will remain detained is unclear.

Read more from The Straits Times.

Read more from The Associated Press.

Read more on CNBC

Read more in The Irrawaddy.com.

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