PORT KLANG • 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 - yesterday at the Boustead Cruise Centre in Port Klang, where it has been berthed since Tuesday after being handed over by Indonesia to the Malaysian authorities.
"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 vessel.
The Equanimity was first seized in February by Indonesian officials at the request of the US Department of Justice (DOJ), after the DOJ claimed it was bought with funds stolen from Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The Indonesian authorities handed the yacht over to Malaysian marine police off Batam island last Monday. On the same day, the DOJ filed an application to the Californian courts to suspend all proceedings regarding the vessel so the US government could find out Malaysia's intentions for the yacht.
Tun Dr Mahathir yesterday said the US authorities have confirmed the yacht was purchased by Mr Low using funds stolen from 1MDB.
'EVERYTHING IS SUPERB'
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.
MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER MAHATHIR MOHAMAD, on the "superb" facilities the superyacht Equanimity offers.
"They have identified this boat as being bought with stolen money from 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 was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail news site.
The premier said it was up to Mr Low, whose full name is Low Taek Jho, to prove that the yacht 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 (S$670,000) a month," said Dr Mahathir.
He also said the superyacht would not be open for public viewing, as it needs to be kept in very good condition.
"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," he explained.
Dr Mahathir said the yacht had "fantastic" elevators, 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 added.
He 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 him during his tour were Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, and Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun.
Separately, Dr Mahathir said at an event yesterday that the amount of unpaid student loans was almost as high as the debts of 1MDB.
"Do you know how much money is owed by people who received PTPTN (money)? It is about the same as the money lost through 1MDB, RM39 billion," he said, referring to the National Higher Education Fund by its Malay acronym.
PTPTN is a government body that provides study loans to Malaysian university students.
"That's how much money that has not been paid to the government for what it spent on you to give you a good education and therefore opportunities for a better job and a better income," the premier said, addressing students gathered at the Malaysian Student Leaders summit in Kuala Lumpur.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
- Additional reporting by Hazlin Hassan