Report: Equanimity legally belongs to Malaysian govt now, DoJ tells US court

Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
The seized superyacht Equanimity, purportedly belonging to fugitive businessman Jho Low, has arrived in Port Klang August 7, 2018. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 — The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has informed the Court of Appeals the latest developments concerning the Malaysian government’s legal ownership of the superyacht Equanimity, according to a news report.

Malaysiakini reported that this was done hours after a default judgment was obtained by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday, which ruled that the former’s subsidiaries, 1MDB Energy Holdings Ltd and 1MDB Global Investment Ltd, are the rightful owners of the Equanimity.

“According to press reports issued today, a Malaysian court just issued a default judgment against the M/Y Equanimity, which is the defendant in rem at issue in this appeal.

“According to this default judgment, the Equanimity is now the property of the Malaysian government.

“Thus, the Malaysian government now possesses both physical custody of the Equanimity and legal ownership of the Equanimity by operation of Malaysian law,” Malaysiakini reported, quoting excerpts of the official letter.

The judgment-in-default yesterday was made by Judicial Commissioner Khadijah Idris in her chambers after no one came forward to challenge the claim jointly made by the government and 1MDB on August 6.

On October 5, the same court granted an application by the four plaintiffs to appoint a central broker and an international appraiser to handle the sale of the Equanimity, which purportedly belongs to fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low.

It followed a decision on August 24, by the same court, that granted an application by the four plaintiffs to sell the Equanimity.

The superyacht was brought to Port Klang on August 7 after Indonesian authorities handed it over to Malaysia following its seizure off Bali in February at the request of the US authorities as part of the corruption investigation launched by the DoJ into 1MDB.

The latest decision means that 1MDB will be able to collect the proceeds of the sale — minus expenses — once the sale is complete.

The government and 1MDB had claimed in court that 1MDB ought to be the rightful owner of the Equanimity since it had been purchased using 1MDB funds, citing allegations in the DoJ’s civil forfeiture claim that is also meant to seize the vessel.

The vessel is officially registered to Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd and operated by Wilson Yacht Management Ltd, but authorities in various jurisdictions have maintained that it belongs to Jho Low.

Equanimity Ltd had claimed that ownership of the vessel’s future buyers would be called into question as the matter is still being contested in US courts, but government-appointed lawyer Jeremy M. Joseph had denied this, saying that a judicial sale would provide buyers with a clean title to the vessel.

London-based broker Burgess had likewise indicated that the judicial sale would be free of encumbrances to potential buyers.

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