Indonesian police quiz immigration officers about Jho Low's yacht

JAKARTA • Indonesian police are questioning officers from the immigration office and the Benoa Harbour authority to find out if the crew of a seized luxury yacht had violated immigration procedures to enter Indonesian waters.

The yacht is allegedly owned by Malaysian financier Jho Low.

Indonesian authorities seized the yacht Equanimity off the resort island of Bali on Wednesday, at the request of the United States authorities investigating alleged money laundering at Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The police are also investigating the purpose of the vessel's visit to Bali, the Jakarta Post reported.

"We are still in the process of matching the data we get from the yacht with the data we get from the FBI," said Senior Commander Daniel Tahi Monang Silitonga, deputy director for financial crimes at the National Police's detective unit, the Jakarta Post reported.

According to the police, the yacht entered Bali's Benoa Harbour on Nov 20 last year, but its movements after arriving remain unknown.

The police questioned the South African captain of the yacht, identified as Mr Rolf Sieboldt-Berry, and two other crew members on Thursday.

It is suspected that the skipper had deliberately turned off the automated identification system (AIS) when it was in Indonesian waters, to avoid pursuit by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, tribunnews.com reported.

A total of 29 crew members of various nationalities are under police custody on board the vessel.

Mr Rando Purba, the lawyer for the crew, said his clients denied that they had tried to avoid the FBI.

According to them, the yacht entered Indonesia for vacation purposes. "It was to enjoy Indonesia," Mr Rando told The Jakarta Post.

Mr Rando added that the captain had to turn off the AIS to "evade pirates" in the Andaman Sea before entering Phuket in Thailand.

From Phuket, the yacht continued its trip to Bali with the AIS turned on, he said.

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

Among the assets the US Department of Justice is seeking to seize is Equanimity, a US$250 million (S$330 million) luxury yacht allegedly bought by Mr Low with proceeds diverted from 1MDB.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 04, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesian police quiz immigration officers about Jho Low's yacht'. Print Edition | Subscribe