PORT KLANG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has described the Equanimity as being "super luxurious" and said the government will sell the yacht to the highest bidder as soon as possible.
The premier toured the US$250 million (S$343 million) vessel, which allegedly belongs to fugitive businessman Jho Low, on Saturday (Aug 11) at the Boustead Cruise Centre in Port Klang where it is berthed after being handed over to the Malaysian authorities on Monday.
"It's very luxurious, super luxurious. I have been on yachts before but nothing like this. Everything is superb, and bought with stolen money, by crooks. We'll get at the crooks," he said at a media conference after spending an hour on the boat.
The Equanimity was first seized in February by Indonesian officials for the US Department of Justice (DOJ), after the DOJ claimed it was purchased with funds stolen from Malaysian state fund 1MDB.
Indonesian authorities handed over the vessel to Malaysian marine police off Batam island on Monday. On the same day the DOJ filed an application to the court in California to suspend all proceedings regarding the vessel so the US government could find out Malaysia's intentions for the yacht.
Tun Dr Mahathir said on Saturday the US authorities have confirmed the yacht was purchased by Mr Low using funds stolen from 1MDB.
“They have identified this boat as being bought with stolen money from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and it belonged to Jho Low. They have documents on this and said if we wanted to keep it, we are entitled to it because it was bought with our stolen money,” he said, as quoted by new site the Malay Mail.
The premier said the government aims to sell the vessel to the highest bidder as soon as possible.
He added that if Mr Low, whose full name is Low Taek Jho, wants to prevent the Equanimity from being sold off, it is up to him to prove that the ship is his and not bought with money stolen from Malaysia.
"We are going to sell the boat as soon as possible. The maintenance of this boat alone costs us RM2 million a month," said Dr Mahathir.
He also said that the superyacht would not be open for public viewing, as it needs to be kept in very good condition.
"On yachts people don't even wear shoes, but we were given some privilege to wear shoes.
"But if we allowed hundreds of people to come and view the yacht, we might damage the yacht. It will give a very bad impression and buyers won't want to buy the ship exhibited like that.
"So we cannot allow the public to view the yacht."
Dr Mahathir said the ship had "fantastic" elevators inside it, where even the cables were hidden from sight.
"The furniture is special for this boat, I think. I have never seen furniture like that anywhere else, and the rooms are fantastic," he said.
Dr Mahathir said the most luxurious room, the master bedroom, has a glass roof, so one can lie on the bed and look up at the sky.
"There is a skylight, and of course if it is too hot you can close it. Everything you can think of is found there, and many things you don't even think about are also there," he said.
Accompanying Dr Mahathir during his inspection of the ship were Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong, Armed Forces chief General Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, Navy chief Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin and Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun.
Asked whether anyone had expressed an interest in buying the Equanimity, Dr Mahathir said the government has an idea of who may be interested.
"We have some idea on people who are interested but they must be very, very rich. Maybe Arabs or Bill Gates might offer," he said, referring to the billionaire founder of Microsoft.