JAKARTA: An Indonesian court on Tuesday (April 17) ruled that the seizure of a luxury yacht linked to a US investigation into scandal-ridden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was invalid and without legal basis.
"We declare the confiscation by police as invalid and legally baseless," Justice Ratmoho told the hearing at the South Jakarta District Court.
On Feb 28, Indonesian police in Bali confiscated the 92-metre, Cayman Islands-registered Equanimity yacht off Bali as part of a joint operation with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Ratmoho said the seizure should have been carried out "under the reciprocal legal assistance framework as stipulated by the 2006 law, which gives the mandate to the law and human rights ministry," and not the police.
The US Department of Justice had earlier alleged that the Equanimity, valued at US$250mil (RM972.25 million), was among assets purchased by Malaysian banker Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, using funds siphoned from 1MDB.
The funds were allegedly laundered in several countries including the US. The department filed a civil case in June 2017 in a bid to recover the assets.
Ratmoho also said there has been no court ruling that the owner of the yacht committed a crime. "(If) there is no (proven) crime, there should not be any confiscation," he said.
The US court documents say that Low had no formal role at 1MDB, but had considerable decision-making influence.
But in early March, Malaysia's Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun, citing an ongoing investigation, said Low never worked for 1MDB and he did not make any business decision for the company.
The Bali police had planned to hand over the confiscated yacht to the US authorities after the Feb 28 seizure, but the company claiming legal ownership of the yacht took the matter to court in Indonesia, citing legal flaws.
Andi Simangunsong, a lawyer representing Equanimity Cayman Ltd, told reporters earlier in April that the yacht was not linked to any criminal case in Indonesia, therefore the local police had no authority to seize the vessel.
He added that a reciprocal legal assistance arrangement between Indonesia and a foreign country is possible but it must go through the law and human rights ministry, not just through the police,
He argued that the handing over of the yacht to the US authorities by the police would constitute a breach of legal procedures. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network