Yacht once owned by French tycoon Bernard Tapie sinks off Malaysia

Seven crew members were saved from the 75-metre Phocea after rescuers were alerted to a fire on Feb 18. PHOTO: AFP/MALAYSIAN MARITIME ENFORCEMENT AGENCY

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - A multimillion-dollar sailing yacht that once belonged to French tycoon Bernard Tapie has sunk off the coast of Malaysia, an official confirmed on Sunday (Feb 21), after it caught fire a few days ago.

Malaysia's coastguard said the 75m Phocea sank near the holiday island of Langkawi early Friday morning, a day after a blaze engulfed the four-masted yacht.

"We believed it sank on Friday morning, at about 5am or 6am," senior coastguard official Mohamad Zawawi Abdullah told AFP.

"We managed to control the fire, but the damage to the hull caused by the fire may have caused the yacht to sink."

He added that government officials were investigating the cause of the fire, and that the agent in charge of the vessel had been informed of the sinking.

Seven crew members were saved from the vessel after rescuers were alerted to the fire on Thursday.

Built for French sailor Alain Colas in 1976, the yacht was owned by Mr Tapie in the 1980s and 1990s.

It was later sold to a wealthy Lebanese woman for 36.5 million francs (S$12 million today), according to media reports.

Mr Tapie is a former Socialist minister who rose from humble beginnings to build a sporting and media empire, but later faced a string of legal problems.

He made a fortune in the early part of his career by taking over failing companies, and flaunted his wealth. As well as the yacht, he bought a football club.

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