INTERNATIONAL - Malaysia started an auction of financier Low Taek Jho’s $250 million (R3.6 billion) luxury yacht that investigators allege was bought with funds embezzled from investment company 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
Bidding on “Equanimity” starts on Monday and will end on November 28, according to Ong Chee Kwan from law firm Christopher & Lee Ong, who is representing the government and 1MDB in the sale of the 300-foot vessel. He couldn’t provide an estimate on the amount Malaysia expects to raise from it.
"All I can say is as high as possible," Ong said, referring those interested to yacht brokerage firm Burgess, which is handling the process.
The yacht is among more than $1.7 billion in assets that the claims were acquired by Low, commonly known as Jho Low, and his accomplices with money they allegedly siphoned from 1MDB.
A US district judge in May ordered Low’s companies to hand over the vessel to the US so it could be sailed from Indonesia, where it was seized in February and sold.
Instead, it ended up in Malaysia, arriving at a port in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur on August 7. It’s unclear how Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad secured the Indonesian authorities’ agreement to relinquish possession of Equanimity to it.
Low has said Malaysia’s move to acquire the vessel was “illegitimate,” while Mahathir has challenged the yacht’s owners to show how the source of funds to buy Equanimity. A spokesman for Low didn’t immediately reply on Monday to an email seeking comment on the auction.
A Malaysian court approved in August an application by the government and 1MDB to dispose of the boat that they said was costing "substantial and escalating expenses" to maintain. Equanimity Cayman Ltd., the company that owns the yacht, said before the court decision that to move for a sale in Malaysia immediately would be a violation of due process and international legal comity, and would call into question the actual ownership of the yacht for any buyer.
Ong said Monday that exchange of ownership of the vessel will take place a few days after bidding ends.Bloomberg