Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the United States (US) Department of Justice has confirmed that the luxury yacht Equanimity belongs to Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, who bought the ship using money stolen from Malaysia.
“The US (confirmed) that the ship was bought using stolen money from Malaysia (and) they found that it belongs to Jho Low.
“When you steal money, you have to put it somewhere. They buy property, they buy all kinds of things,” the prime minister said after touring the ship today.
Dr Mahathir said the government plans to sell off the yacht as soon as possible.
He said it costs the government RM2 million just to maintain vessel, which is docked at the Boustead Cruise Centre at Pulau Indah, Port Klang.
Dr Mahathir said he had never seen the kind of luxury found on the Equanimity.
“Everything you can think of is there and things which you cannot think of are also there,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said the vessel even has lifts, which is a blessing for “old people” like him, eliciting a chuckle from media representatives at a press conference here.
As such, he said that members of the public will not be allowed to board the ship, as it must be kept in good condition in order that it can fetch a good price at auction.
“If we allow hundreds of people to view (the ship), that might damage the yacht and give a bad impression to (potential) buyers,” he added.
On the 1MDB investigation and how it may affect the Malaysian government’s ability to get money from selling off Equanimity, Dr Mahathir said that the US government has assured them that sale proceeds would belong to the Malaysian people.
“(The US government) has assured us that it is Jho Low’s boat and they said that we are entitled to keep (proceeds from selling off the boat), as it was bought with stolen money,” he said.
On when the auction would be conducted, he said there is no specific time frame but that they wish to do it as soon as possible.
“There are rumours that some people are interested. But they must be very, very rich.
“Perhaps (buyers on the level of) Arabs or (US IT tycoon) Bill Gates,” he said to further chuckles from those present at the press conference.
Earlier, Dr Mahathir and several ministers conducted a one-hour inspection of the 1MDB-linked superyacht.
The prime minister and several Cabinet members were among those seen stepping-off the controversial vessel at 1.08pm.
Among the ministers seen accompanying Dr Mahathir were Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Hanipa Maidin.
They were seen boarding the luxury vessel at 12.04pm today.
Dr Mahathir and the other ministers were later ferried on buggies from the superyacht to the Boustead Cruise Centre building.
Also present were Royal Malaysian Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin, Armed Forces chief General Tan Sri Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun.
The 91.5m superyacht arrived in Malaysia after making its way from Indonesia.
The RM1 billion vessel was escorted by Malaysian police and the Royal Malaysian Navy and docked here on Aug 7.
The Equanimity is believed to be part of assets purchased using funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB.
Reports had previously suggested that the luxurious vessel, capable of carrying 26 guests, has gold leaf and marble trimmings, a spa and sauna, a 20-metre swimming pool, a cinema, an elevator and a helipad.
Its purported owner, Jho Low, is being sought to assist in the probe into 1MDB. – Source: NSTP