PETALING JAYA: The Equanimity is expected to arrive at Port Klang soon after spending a day in Batam, Indonesia, yesterday.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad thanked Indonesia for the good news, though he said if fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho could prove that he had purchased the billion-ringgit yacht with his own money, he could get it back.
“If they have proof that they purchased the yacht using their own money and not stolen money, they have the right to get the yacht back,” Dr Mahathir said in a video posted on Facebook.
He said the close relationship between both countries was the reason this problem could be solved.
“We believe the yacht belongs to Malaysia because it is believed to have been bought with Malaysian money stolen by certain parties.
“If there is anyone who claims the yacht is theirs, they can show proof that they own it. We want to know how they managed to amass such a huge amount of money that they were able to purchase such an expensive yacht,” he said.
He added that investigations by the US Department of Justice revealed that the yacht was purchased using funds stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
A source said the vessel received port clearance from the Batam Marine Department at 2.30pm yesterday, indicating that its next port of call was Port Klang.
The source said at least four Malaysian policemen would accompany the ship and its crew here.
The yacht arrived in Batam island yesterday morning. By 6pm, it had entered Malaysian waters.
It was supposed to head for the Batu Ampar port, but was diverted and anchored near the Pulau Nong lighthouse at the entrance to Tering Bay at around 9.30am yesterday.
The yacht had sailed from the Tanjung Benoa port in Bali last Thursday.
The Equanimity was seized in Bali in February at the request of US authorities as part of a multibillion-dollar corruption investigation launched by the Department of Justice over 1MDB.
However, a Jakarta court ruling in April declared that the yacht was wrongfully impounded and it was released to its owners after they obtained a court motion to declare that the seizure was illegal.
But the vessel was not allowed to leave the Tanjung Benoa port.
Last month, Indonesian police seized the yacht again following a formal request for legal assistance from the United States.
Reuters reported that the decision by the Indonesian government to hand over the yacht to Malaysia was reached following a personal request made by Dr Mahathir, who visited Indonesia in June.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said his ministry intended to recover as much money as it could from the Equanimity.
Speaking to reporters at Parliament lobby yesterday, he said the immediate plan was for the Attorney General to ensure that all the paperwork was in order and proper controls were imposed.
“If possible, we need to make sure that there is a proper inventory of the assets inside, and we hope that the public can also view it.
“This may not be the entire ship, just a portion of it, because there are also a lot of valuable items inside and there must be some sort of control.
“At the end of the day, we want to get back as much money as we can from all these ill-gotten gains.
“These stolen assets should be sold at the highest price so the money can be returned to the people,” Lim said.
Asked if Malaysia would get to keep the yacht, Lim said he would leave it to Attorney General Tommy Thomas to explain, though he said the fact that the yacht was being sent here “speaks for itself”.
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