Genting Malaysia to buy 1MDB-linked superyacht for $170m

Luxury vessel Equanimity, which is among assets allegedly bought by Malaysian businessman Jho Low and associates with money taken from the 1MDB fund, was seized by Indonesia and handed over to Malaysia last year.
Luxury vessel Equanimity, which is among assets allegedly bought by Malaysian businessman Jho Low and associates with money taken from the 1MDB fund, was seized by Indonesia and handed over to Malaysia last year.PHOTO: REUTERS

The yacht allegedly bought with money stolen from state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and once used by fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low to host lavish parties, will be sold to casino operator Genting Malaysia for US$126 million (S$170 million).

In a statement announcing the sale yesterday, Malaysia's Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said the Admiralty Court in Kuala Lumpur had approved the offer by Genting to purchase the vessel, called Equanimity.

"The government of Malaysia is pleased to announce that the superyacht Equanimity is to be sold to Genting Malaysia Berhad or its special purpose vehicle company at the price of US$126 million," Mr Thomas said in a statement.

"This will rank as the highest recovery to date for the government of Malaysia from the 1MDB scandal, within a mere eight months from the commencement of this action."

In an announcement on Bursa Malaysia's website, Genting said the acquisition will provide the company with "a unique and competitive edge for its premium customers business". It said the purchase will not affect 2019 earnings.

Equanimity was seized off Bali's coast by Indonesia in February last year at the request of the US authorities as part of a multibillion-dollar corruption investigation into the 1MDB scandal. The luxury vessel is among assets allegedly bought by Low, also known as Low Taek Jho, and his associates with money taken from the fund, US and Malaysian officials have said.

Low allegedly paid US$250 million for the yacht, which has an interior clad in marble and gold leaf, a spa and sauna, a 20m swimming pool, a movie theatre and helipad.

The Indonesian government handed over the vessel to Malaysia in August, but the Malaysian government struggled to find buyers for the 91m ship after an earlier auction failed. The government has so far spent RM14.5 million (S$4.8 million) to maintain Equanimity, which was docked in Port Klang before being moved to the Royal Malaysian Navy's Region 3 headquarters in Langkawi, said Malaysian media.

The US$126 million purchase price was the best offer received since the superyacht was put on sale in October last year. Malaysia had originally wanted to sell the yacht for no less than US$130 million.

In a statement on the sale, a spokesman for Low said they were prompted to speak even though the vessel is owned by Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd, as Low is "inevitably drawn into the media coverage over the yacht's mishandling by the Malaysian government".

"Let us be clear, had the Mahathir government not illegally seized the Equanimity from Indonesia and docked it in a hazardous environment at Port Klang, the vessel would have maintained its value and avoided a fire sale," said the spokesman in the statement issued through lawyers.

Low, who has also denied any wrongdoing, remains at large. He faces charges in Malaysia including money laundering.

Genting Malaysia is part of a global conglomerate that operates casinos, resorts and cruise lines, as well as property and oil palm plantations. The group runs Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore and the luxury Star Cruises line in Hong Kong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2019, with the headline 'Genting Malaysia to buy 1MDB-linked superyacht for $170m'. Print Edition | Subscribe