The US Justice Department wants to suspend its legal efforts to take possession of the superyacht Equanimity, impounded as part of a hunt for assets linked to the multi-billion dollar 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal.
The US Justice Department, which had sought custody of Equanimity as part of its anti-kleptocracy investigation into 1MDB, said proceedings in the US courts should be suspended until it finds out what Malaysia would do with the yacht.
“The government proposes that all proceedings in this action be suspended in order to give the government and any interested claimant the opportunity to inquire of Malaysia through formal channels what its intentions are with respect to the defendant yacht,” it said in a filing to the California Central District Court yesterday.
Malaysia’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told reporters yesterday that the government planned to take inventory of items on the yacht and open the vessel for public viewing, before eventually selling it “at the highest price”.
A total of US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to civil lawsuits filed by the US Justice Department
Malaysian authorities are seeking to arrest Low Taek Jho, the financier who allegedly bought the Equanimity, a 91 metre (300-foot) yacht registered in the Cayman Islands. Lawsuits have identified him as a central figure in the 1MDB scandal, but his whereabouts are unknown.
Meanwhile, owners of Equanimity said in a separate filing to a US court that it is opposed to any suspension of proceedings and contested the handover of the vessel to Malaysia.
They filed a petition in the US court challenging what it said was the “unlawful and extrajudicial” seizure of the yacht. The petition questioned the lawfulness of a warrant issued by the Indonesian police to turn over the vessel to Malaysia.
The yacht was handed over to Malaysian authorities at the Indonesian island of Batam and was expected to reach Malaysia’s Port Klang today.
Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad ousted his predecessor Datuk Seri Najib Razak in an election in May and immediately launched an investigation into 1MDB.
The fund, founded by Najib, is at the centre of money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.