Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia says it's a 'victim' of yacht probe linked to US 1MDB investigation

A seized luxury yacht, which US officials have said was owned by Malaysian financier Jho Low, is seen in Bali on Feb 28, 2018.
A seized luxury yacht, which US officials have said was owned by Malaysian financier Jho Low, is seen in Bali on Feb 28, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Ambassador to Indonesia has said his country was a victim of the investigation into the Equanimity luxury yacht that was seized by Indonesia as part of a United States corruption probe linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund.

Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Zahrain Mohamed Hashim made the remarks in an interview with Indonesian current affairs magazine Tempo which last week published a cover story on the yacht's seizure, the Malaysian Insight reported on Monday (March 19).

The cover story was headlined '1MDB corruption yacht'; and accompanied by an illustration of Malaysian financier Jho Low sitting on the Equanimity.

The yacht, which US officials have said was owned by Mr Low, was seized by Indonesia last month (February) at the request of US investigators and handed over to the FBI on March 8.

Datuk Seri Zahrain was quoted telling the magazine that Mr Najib was "disappointed" with the story as it was "not true".

He added that the 1MDB scandal was being used by the opposition - led by former prime minister and vocal Najib critic Mahathir Mohamad - to attack the government ahead of the country's upcoming polls.

"We will be facing elections. The opposition will use it (1MDB) to attack the government," he was quoted saying.

 
 
 

Dismissing the 1MDB investigation by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) as "baseless", he claimed that the probe was "only based on reports and stories".

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

The US Justice Department alleges in civil lawsuits that US$4.5 billion (S$5.93 billion) was stolen from 1MDB - which was set up by Mr Najib - in a campaign of fraud and money-laundering.

Mr Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.

The suits list US$1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with the stolen funds, which US officials are seeking to recover.

Those assets include the 90m super yacht which US officials said was purchased by Malaysian financier Mr Low, who was an unofficial adviser to 1MDB.

Malaysia's police chief has said there is no link between Mr Low and 1MDB.

A spokesman for Mr Low had said the yacht's seizure was part of the DOJ's "pattern of global overreach - all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing" in the 1MDB case.

Mr Zahrain also questioned why 1MDB's CEO Arul Kanda had not been investigated yet if the money-laundering allegations made by the FBI were true.

He said information that the government had indicated that the yacht did not belong to Mr Low. "If it is not Jho Low's, why is it associated with 1MDB and the Malaysian prime minister?" he asked.

"This is not a Malaysian boat, it has nothing to do with the Malaysian people. It is not the Malaysian people's yacht."

Malaysian investigators, he added, had so far not found any wrongdoing in 1MDB's losses and had cleared all of its executives, the Malaysian Insight reported.

"There is no case. The police and anti-corruption agency, as well as the attorney-general has found no wrongdoing."

Separately, Malaysia's Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani  on Monday declined to comment on whether the government was investigating the financial records of Mr Low and Mr Najib's stepson, Riza Aziz, who has also been named by US investigators in the suit seeking the 1MDB-linked assets.

Responding to the question posed by opposition Democratic Action Party Member of Parliament Lim Lip Eng, Datuk Seri Johari said the two men had never paid taxes in Malaysia as they did not declare their income in the country, Malaysian Insight reported. He also declined to comment on the investigations involving the two men and 1MDB.