Indonesia seize luxury yacht Equanimity sought in 1MDB probe: Police

Indonesian officials prepare to board the luxury yacht Equanimity at Benoa Bay in Bali, on Feb 28, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesia on Wednesday (Feb 28) seized a luxury yacht on the island of Bali sought by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) as part of a multi-billion dollar corruption investigation linked to Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

"We have been inspecting the crew since yesterday and now we are taking action since we have received approval from the court to seize the boat," Agung Setya, director of economic and special crimes at the Indonesia's criminal investigation bureau, told Metro TV.

Television footage in Indonesia showed Indonesian officials talking to the crew on board the moored yacht with the name "Equanimity" at Benoa Bay. Mr Setya said there were 34 crew on board.

The official said it was not certain whether the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would be involved. "We will see how this develops ... Whether we can do a joint investigation later or whether we can hand it over later, we are in the process of collecting and investigating."

A total of US$4.5 billion (S$6 bilion) was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to civil lawsuits filed by the DOJ in the past two years.

1MDB is at the centre of money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the US, Switzerland and Singapore.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak set up 1MDB in 2009 and served as chairman of its advisory board until last year. He and the fund have denied any wrongdoing.

In August 2017, the DOJ asked for a stay on its civil lawsuits seeking to seize more than US$1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds because it was conducting a related criminal probe.

Among the assets sought were a US$250 million luxury yacht bought by Malaysian financier Jho Low, named as a key figure in the US lawsuits. The lawsuits claimed that Mr Low used proceeds diverted from 1MDB to procure Equanimity, which it described as a 300-foot yacht registered in the Cayman Islands.

Mr Low's whereabouts are unknown and his Hong Kong company has not responded to requests for comment. In an emailed statement through his representative in June last year, Mr Low said the DOJ's actions were an example "of global overreach in pursuit of a deeply flawed case".

Other assets allegedly bought by Mr Low with stolen 1MDB funds include a private jet, a hotel and real estate in New York, and a US$107 million interest in EMI Music Publishing.

Some assets have been returned. Australian model and actress Miranda Kerr handed over millions of dollars worth of jewellery that US authorities say were given to her by Mr Low, including a jewellery set gifted to her during an excursion aboard Equanimity in 2014.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio also returned to authorities an Oscar once owned by actor Marlon Brando and other items that the US says were funded by 1MDB money.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.