SERDANG: With Low Taek Jho’s US$250mil (RM1.02bil) superyacht secure in Malaysian custody, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is now turning his attention to the fugitive businessman’s US$35mil (RM143mil) private jet.
The Bombardier Global 5000 jet, impounded by Singapore in February last year, is part of some US$1bil (RM4.08bil) in assets allegedly acquired with funds misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Asked whether Malaysia would take the jet, the Prime Minister replied: “Yes, I think so. We have to bring it back.”
The private jet, along with the Equanimity superyacht, is part of assets that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking to seize over its probe into a global conspiracy to launder funds related to 1MDB.
It was reported in February last year that the private jet, with the registration number N689WM, had been grounded at Singapore’s Seletar airport.
On whether discussions are ongoing to get back the private jet, Dr Mahathir said: “I don’t know. Somebody else is doing it.”
Asked for more details on who is making the arrangements, Dr Mahathir said:
“We are trying to get back all the money that has been stolen from us. We know who has it but we don’t know where they are.
“And the need for us to access the money depends on us proving that it is our money.”
Dr Mahathir said these after visiting an art exhibition at the Perdana University here yesterday.
The exhibition organised by the university is entitled “Tun M: A Forever Legacy”, and showcases more than 100 artworks inspired by Dr Mahathir.
Dr Mahathir, who is the founding chancellor of the university, attended the event with his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali.
On another matter, Dr Mahathir came out with his sarcastic wit in response to Low’s allegation that the Prime Minister was “putting words into the mouth” of the US authorities when he said that the yacht’s arrival in Malaysia last week was after negotiations with the US.
“I am very proud that I can put words in the mouth of the US Government. I must be greater than Trump (US president Donald Trump).
“You can ask the US authorities whether I put “words into their mouths”, whether I typed out the words and shoved it down their throat,” Dr Mahathir said.
Low’s spokesman, in a statement yesterday, alleged that proper legal process was not part of Dr Mahathir’s administration.
This was in reference to the Prime Minister’s comments on Saturday when he said that the DOJ had assured Malaysia that the RM1bil Equanimity belonged to Low, who is also known as Jho Low, and was bought using money stolen from 1MDB.
Low’s spokesman said his client had been found guilty by Dr Mahathir’s administration before a single piece of evidence had been produced in US courts.
The Bombardier Global 5000 jet is described by the Canadian manufacturer Bombardier as “the world’s fastest” ultra-long range private jet.
It can fly eight passengers with comfort 4,800 nautical miles or 8,889km non-stop at a speed of .85 Mach (1,098kph).
Powered by two Rolls-Royce turbo fan engines, it has three crew members and can be configured to transport a maximum of 16 passengers.
The full-sized galley comes with a microwave, espresso machine, hot and cold food facilities and storage.
Checks on the Internet revealed that 96m-long Bombardier Global 5000 costs around US$50mil (RM204mil) new, while used versions can be bought from US$13mil to US$14mil (RM53mil to RM57mil).
After deliveries began in 2005, over 220 aircraft have been produced.
On another matter, Dr Mahathir was also asked about the RM18bil GST refund issue.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told the Dewan Rakyat on Aug 8 that the previous government had not been able to refund companies their tax credit that came about following the implementation of the GST because 93% of the money was not placed in the correct account.
Lim had said some RM18bil of the RM19.4bil input tax credit under the GST system since 2015 was “robbed” by the previous administration.
On Aug 10, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had said this could have happened when businesses filed their tax refunds to try to claim it immediately as soon as GST was zero-rated in June.
Dr Mahathir said he noted how both Lim and Najib had spoken on the matter, adding: “If it is not missing, show us where the money is.”
Dr Mahathir said a lot of the Government’s funds had to go towards servicing the many loans taken by the previous administration.
“Also, people expect us to give free money to them because this is a habit developed by Najib; that he gives money to people freely and now the people expect us to give money to them freely.
“But we don’t have the money. We have not stolen the money the way Najib has done,” said Dr Mahathir.