US denies role in Indonesia’s transfer of Equanimity to Malaysia

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The Equanimity is docked at the Boustead Cruise Centre in Port Klang August 7, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 18 — The US government said it was not involved in the transfer of luxury yacht Equanimity from Indonesia to Malaysia.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) — which is seeking custody of the vessel allegedly belonging to fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low — told a California court yesterday that it had merely retained its contract with Wilson Yacht Management Co (WYM) until August 7, when it learned from WYM that Malaysia would assume financial responsibility for the yacht’s continued maintenance and upkeep.

“In recent correspondence with the government, Claimants have alleged that the US Government co-orchestrated or assisted in the handover of the yacht from Indonesia to Malaysia.

“However, other than the actions outlined in Paragraph 7 above — both of which were necessary and appropriate to maintain the safety and security of the yacht — the US Government took no part in Indonesia’s transferring the yacht to Malaysia,” the DOJ said in a court filing to the US district court in California.

In Paragraph 7 of its court filing, the DOJ said it had advised WYM to instruct the yacht crew to obey directives by the Indonesian government during the transit of Equanimity and the US government retained the yacht management company’s contract until August 7.

The DOJ said on June 15, lawyers of claimants for Equanimity authorised the US government to take custody of the vessel directly from Indonesia once Indonesia was prepared to relinquish custody, but Indonesia requested a written confirmation of the claimants’ consent.

The DOJ said it had emailed claimants’ counsel on July 6 and July 16 for such a letter, but on July 20, the claimants’ counsel declined to write a letter confirming their consent to Equanimity’s transfer.

Equanimity entered Malaysian waters on August 7, after which the Attorney General’s Chambers filed a forfeiture proceeding in admiralty law against the yacht.

Attorney General Tommy Thomas reportedly said that “sensitive and delicate” negotiations were conducted at the highest levels of different agencies in Indonesia, the US, and Malaysia to seize Equanimity.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reportedly claimed last Saturday that the US government had assured Malaysia that Equanimity belonged to Low and Malaysia was entitled to keep the yacht because it was “ours and bought with stolen Malaysian money”.

Low’s spokesman said in a statement that the DOJ’s court filing yesterday contradicted Dr Mahathir and Thomas.

“Based on the DOJ’s filing, these are all lies,” said Low’s spokesman through his attorneys.

“The Mahathir regime has once again embarrassed the US in a vain attempt to justify the illegal taking of this asset, done with utter disregard for the rule of law in two jurisdictions.

“In reality, his desperate attempt to justify his actions makes it impossible to sell the asset for fair value because of still-open legal questions as to actual ownership, and the legal repercussions that might be faced by any new owner.”

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