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Attorney General’s Proactive Act In Claiming Superyacht Equanimity May Have Saved RM650 Million



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Aug 08 2018
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1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has laid claim to the superyacht Equanimity. Ironically, the same company wouldn’t touch the US$250 million (RM1 billion) vessel with a 10-foot pole about 3 months ago. Before the May 9 general election, 1MDB wanted nothing to do with the luxury yacht, let alone claiming the ownership on the vessel.

 

For as long as one can remember, the scandal-plagued ex-PM Najib Razak has claimed he didn’t really know Jho Low despite Mr. Low telling associates he “was protected by Mr. Najib”. The disgraceful Najib also claimed he did not know that funds from the debt-ridden and state-owned 1MDB were used to buy the luxury yacht, the Equanimity, while the whole world knew about it.

 

Yet, everything went upside-down on August 7. The RM1 billion baby has finally arrived and docked at the Boustead Cruise Centre, Pulau Indah – within Malaysia waters – for the first time for all and sundry to view, joyfully and angrily, how the Malaysian taxpayers’ hard-earned money was stolen by Jho Low and his partner-in-crime Najib Razak for the purchase of the vessel.

The Equanimity Super Yacht - Rear View

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and President Jokowi

All this was possible thanks to the close relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia. It would take Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad a special visit to Indonesia to rub-shoulders with President Joko Widodo in June before a top secret deal is made. In fact, the deal was so confidential that Jho Low’s top-paid lawyers were caught with their pants down.

 

As revealed by Attorney General Tommy Thomas, it was achieved as a result of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (“MLAs”) between Indonesia, the U.S. and Malaysia which were activated recently, sensitive and delicate negotiations were conducted at the highest levels of different agencies. In short, it was a “secret” cooperation and collaboration very few knew about.

 

Lawyers of Jho Low could only cry, whine and bitch that PM Mahathir’s “illegal” act of bringing the Equanimity back to Malaysia proves he has no interest in a fair and just process. They claimed on August 6 – “Mahathir has chosen to bring the asset illegally into a rigged Malaysian system manipulated by a man who only cares about his absolute political rule. It is ultimately justice that suffers.”

The Equanimity Super Yacht - Dorks at Port Klang Malaysia

Jho Low should seriously consider getting new lawyers. His lawyers must be really dumb for thinking Malaysia would foolishly break the law. The Attorney General Chambers has just revealed that it invoked the Admiralty jurisdiction of the High Court of Malaya at Kuala Lumpur against the yacht, and on 6th August 2018, the Court issued a Warrant of Arrest against it.

 

In essence, the Dutch-made “Equanimity” is properly seized under the laws of Malaysia. In fact, the seizure was done at the initiative of the Department of Justice of the United States, which asserted ownership of the yacht on behalf of Malaysia and 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) because monies belonging to Malaysia were used to purchase the super luxury vessel.

 

That is why the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) seeks to suspend court proceedings in the country that are related to the superyacht Equanimity. Of course, Jho Low’s lawyers hadn’t the clue about the secret operation. Like the lawyers, pro-Najib cybertroopers, propagandists and bloggers also screamed until foaming at the mouth that the seizure was illegal.

Jho Low, Prince Turki, Najib Razak, Rosmah Mansor - Yacht

The U.S.-DOJ said in a notice filed at the California Central District Court – “The (U.S.) government has learned that the defendant yacht has been released by the Indonesian government to the government of Malaysia, and has left Indonesian waters. It is the government’s understanding that a warrant was obtained in Indonesia authorising the turnover.”

 

Therefore, the questions and accusations that the superyacht Equanimity was brought into Malaysian waters illegally do not arise at all. The brilliant brain behind the plan to get Mahathir to make the personal request from President Jokowi for the hand over of the yacht to Malaysian authorities was none other than newly appointed Attorney General Tommy Thomas.

 

Tommy Thomas, best known as a constitutional law expert and civil litigator, has proven his worth despite spoke limited Malay language. And Mahathir’s firm decision to hire him, despite initial standoff with the monarch – Agong (King) – has paid off handsomely. Mahathir learns how picking top brains based on competency and integrity, rather than race or religion, is vital.

Attorney General Tommy Thomas - Constitutional Law Expert and Civil Litigator

We wrote how the U.S.-DOJ almost lost its claims on the superyacht while manoeuvring the complex and messy Indonesian law. Jho Low’s lawyers have been trying to challenge the seizure on “procedural grounds” in Indonesia, while a case was also filed in the U.S. courts to determine its ownership. It was an obvious attempt to delay the release of the yacht to the U.S. authorities.

 

However, even if the U.S. finally manages to convince the Indonesian judiciary to release the vessel, the U.S. isn’t interested in throwing crooks into prison. America is notorious for making deals with white-collar criminals. They are more interested in settlement than putting crooks behind bars as can be seen in the case of Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, where he was merely fined US$60 million for stealing.

 

Had the Malaysian Attorney General Chamber and Government depended entirely on the U.S.-DOJ to recover 1MDB assets overseas, of which the RM1 billion superyacht Equanimity is one of them, not only will the yacht still be stranded in Indonesia today, Malaysian taxpayers will most likely not be getting back the maximum value of the vessel.

FBI Department of Justice DOJ - Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor - inset Riza Aziz

Unlike Rolex watches or Hermes Birkin handbags, yachts do not appreciate in value over time. The maintenance of Equanimity is reportedly to be RM3 million every month. It is also believed that Jho Low didn’t negotiate for a good price for the vessel simply because he couldn’t be bother haggling – the money was stolen and siphoned from 1MDB funds anyway.

 

VesselsValue, a London-based online ship-­valuation database firm, reportedly said it valued the Equanimity at only US$175 million (£135 million; RM713 million). Equanimity will be the most expensive yacht to be auctioned, if Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng proceeds with the plan to do so. At RM713 million, the country will still lose about RM300 million due to the theft.

 

The money which can be recovered from the disposal of the yacht would be further depressed if the U.S. Government is left to do all the recovery jobs. According to senior lawyer Rosli Dahlan, Malaysia could end up getting only one-third of the value of the assets seized because all the expenses incurred by the U.S.-DOJ for the heavy-lifting will be charged from the proceeds.

The Equanimity Super Yacht - US Department of Justice DOJ - AG Tommy Thomas

Yes, the U.S.-DOJ isn’t a charity house and certainly there isn’t such thing as free lunch. While they do their jobs professionally, the program within the Department of Justice – Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative – is just another business entity which has its own balance sheet to report to. Perhaps that explains why they are more interested in making “settlement deals” with white-collar criminals.

 

Between U.S.-DOJ’s valuation of RM1 billion and VesselsValue’s valuation of RM713 million, Malaysian people are looking at potential losses of between RM650 million – RM475 million from the disposal of Equanimity, if Attorney General Chamber takes the easy way out by outsourcing all the dirty work to the U.S. authorities. With a new sheriff and a new attorney general in town, Malaysia is a different country.

 

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