PETALING JAYA: The seizure of the US$250mil (RM1bil) superyacht Equanimity by Malaysian authorities is against court rulings in Indonesia and the United States, says a lawyer acting on behalf of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low.
"The action of the Mahathir government in illegitimately taking this asset shows just how quickly the rule of law disappears in Mahathir’s regime.
"It is a violation of an Indonesian law and court decision by a politically motivated Malaysian government bent on advancing its own political agenda with little regard to existing court rulings or basic legal rights," Low's lawyer James F. Haggerty said in a statement on Sunday (Aug 5).
Haggerty claimed the seizure of Equanimity was illegal, adding that Dr Mahathir was showing the world that the government had "no interest in the rule of law", which he said was similar to the 1988 judicial crisis.
The 1988 judicial crisis was sparked during Dr Mahathir's first tenure as prime minister when he tabled a Bill in Parliament to amend Articles 121 and 145 of the Federal Constitution.
Tun Salleh Abas, who was the Lord President then, made a statement defending the judiciary’s autonomy which led to his suspension.
Dr Mahathir has denied responsibility and claimed that it was done under the orders of the Yang di-pertuan Agong at that time.
Haggerty also said that the transfer of the superyacht goes against recent US court orders.
"The US DoJ (Department of Justice) has argued that it is critical that they have possession to ensure the asset retains its value until a fair court hearing can determine final ownership and the rights of all the parties involved," he said.
He added that actions like this made it clear that there was "no jurisdiction where the issues in this case can be subject to a fair hearing".
Haggerty claimed this was due to a global media circus "fuelled by politically motivated parties" whose aim was to convict Low in the public arena.
The Star reported that Equanimity left the Tanjung Benoa port in Bali on Thursday (Aug 2), and was heading to Batam.
The yacht is expected to arrive at Batam's Batu Ampar port on Monday (Aug 6) before being handed over to the Malaysian Government.
The vessel was previously seized in February at the request of US authorities as part of a multi-billion dollar corruption investigation launched by the DoJ related to 1MDB.
A Jakarta court ruling in April declared the yacht was wrongfully impounded and was released to its owners after they got a court motion to declare the seizure was illegal.
However, the vessel was not allowed to leave Tanjung Benoa port.
In July, Indonesian police seized the yacht again following a formal request for legal assistance from the US.
Reuters reported the decision to hand over the yacht to Malaysia was reached following a personal request made by Dr Mahathir who visited Indonesia in June.
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