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Equanimity sold at ‘bargain basement’ price

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M/Y Equanimity, a 300-foot (91.5m) Oceanco, has been sold by the Malaysian government to casino operator Genting Malaysia Bhd for $126 million, according to news reports.

The Cayman-flagged vessel reportedly worth $250 million was seized off Bali in February 2018 by Indonesian officials at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, which was seeking recovery of assets allegedly linked to the multibillion-dollar embezzlement of a Malaysian economic development fund. In August, before the yacht could be taken to the U.S., an Indonesian judge ordered that it be turned over to the Malaysian government for sale.

The yacht had been listed with Burgess after a previous government auction failed. On April 3, just days after a court-imposed March 31 deadline, Malaysia’s Attorney General Tommy Thomas announced approval of the sale to Genting in an offer negotiated directly with the Malaysian government. Although the yacht had been expected to bring in at least $130 million, many of the offers received since October were less than $100 million, Thomas stated in a press release. According to news reports, the vessel has cost the Malaysian government roughly $729,000 per month in maintenance costs.

Equanimity, which is currently docked at navy headquarters on Langkawi island, is expected to be delivered to its new owner by the end of the month, provided the purchase price is paid. Genting Malaysia is part of a global conglomerate that operates casinos, resorts and cruise lines internationally, including the luxury Star Cruises line in Hong Kong.

Launched in the Netherlands in 2014, Equanimity was the first megayacht specifically designed and built to the new Passenger Yacht Code standard. It accommodates 26 guests and 28 crew, and its features include a marble and gold leaf interior, a spa and sauna, a 20m swimming pool, a movie theatre and a helipad. Equanimity (Cayman) LTD, a trust controlled by financier Low Taek Jho, commonly known as Jho Low, was listed as legal owner.

Low, a confidante of Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak, is accused of buying the yacht for a reported $250 million using money from 1Malaysia Development Berhard, a state investment fund set up in 2009 by Razak to attract foreign investment and create a financial district in Kuala Lumpur. The 65-year-old Razak, who was prime minister from 2009 to 2018, is now standing trial in Kuala Lumpur on corruption charges linked to the scandal. He and Low, who remains at large, deny any wrongdoing.

Civil lawsuits filed by the U.S. Justice Department seek to recover about $540 million allegedly  siphoned from the fund and laundered through Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg and the U.S. The case is the focus of investigations in several countries. Besides the yacht, assets allegedly linked to the 1MDB funds include 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; as well as more than $5 million worth of diamond jewelry Low gave his then-girlfriend, Australian actress Miranda Kerr, and a $3.2 million Picasso painting that was given to Leonardo DiCaprio – gifts that both celebrities have since handed over to U.S. authorities.

Low, who is suspected by some to be hiding out in China, has been charged in absentia with money laundering in Malaysia. In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, Low complained through his spokesman that the boat sold for a “bargain-basement sale price” and criticized the government for docking it in the “hazardous” Port Klang environment, according to a Bloomberg news report.

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