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According to reports, 91.5-metre (300-foot) superyacht Equanimity has been seized by Indonesian authorities as part of a U.S. investigation into the siphoning of assets from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB between 2009 and 2015.
The U.S. Department of Justice has been pursuing this case since 2016 with it believed that funds of some $540 million stolen from 1MDB were used to purchase the yacht – the fund set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to promote the country’s economic development. Overall it’s thought that more than $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund with the remaining funds used to buy the rights to several movies, including The Wolf of Wall Street and Dumb and Dumber To.
The yacht was finally detained in Bali on 28th February after a breakthrough was made in the case. Its whereabouts was unclear prior to this, as its AIS tracking system was reportedly switched off on 1st January, with it alleged that the captain was intentionally trying to evade capture.
Agung Setya, director of economic crimes at Indonesia's national police, said to MetroTV, "We have legal confirmation that this asset is the result of a crime. Our law stipulates that anyone who hides an asset resulting from the proceeds of crime is committing a money laundering crime."
Setya said police had secured a court order to seize Equanimity and are questioning its 34 crew. He said the yacht is worth about $250 million.
The ownership of the Oceanco yacht was, however, recently thrown into doubt after a speech made by Datuk Seri Salleh Said Karuak, Malaysia’s communication and multimedia minister, at the Malaysia Fintech Expo 2018 on 5th March. He said, “If you look at the documents, including the Department of Justice summon, it is only an accusation on who the owner is. There is no evidence linking 1MDB to the ship’s purchase.”
The Justice Department alleges the yacht was bought by Jho Low, an associate of Najib who had no formal role at 1MBD, but considerable influence over the organisation for his personal use.
Najib was embroiled in the scandal when it emerged that nearly $1 billion had passed through his personal bank accounts. He and the fund deny any wrongdoing.
Low told the Financial Times in 2017 that the U.S. Department of Justice’s latest move “continues its inappropriate efforts to seize assets despite not having proven that any improprieties have occurred.”
As well as the U.S., there are currently six other countries investigating irregularities related to the 1MDB fund, including Switzerland, Luxembourg, Hong Kong and Singapore.
As the first superyacht to be built to the new PYC standard, Equanimity can accommodate up to 26 guests and 28 crewmembers. She has an Asian-themed interior, a swimming pool, movie theatre and helipad among other luxury amenities.
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