Indonesia has returned to Malaysia a luxury yacht linked to the multi-billion dollar 1MDB financial scandal, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Monday, a move seen as bolstering a corruption probe involving ex-leader Najib Razak.
The yacht - worth about $250 million - was handed over by Indonesian authorities who had seized it off the tourist island of Bali in February.
Fugitive Low Taek Jho (pix) has asked the United States to declare what it knows about the transfer of a US$250 million (RM1.02 billion) super yacht to Malaysia from Indonesia.
"We believe the ship is owned by the Malaysian government because it was bought by Malaysian money that was stolen by certain parties", Mahathir said.
"However, according to the reports and investigations done by the US Department of Justice (DoJ), they are of the opinion that this vessel was purchased with money stolen from 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd), which has been laundered by purchasing this vessel, buildings and others, so that the money won't appear to be stolen funds", Dr Mahathir added.
Former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak. The country's anti-corruption authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Jho Low. His current whereabouts are unknown but Malaysian authorities have said they want to bring him back to the country and prosecute him.
After Mahathir announced Monday, August 6, that Indonesia was handing over the Equanimity, the DoJ sought to suspend ongoing legal action in the United States courts to take possession of the yacht.
Malaysian authorities are seeking to arrest Low Taek Jho, the financier who allegedly bought the Equanimity, a 91 meter (300-foot) yacht registered in the Cayman Islands.
The DoJ has sought to take custody of the Equanimity, after it was seized by Indonesia in February at the request of US authorities as part of a multi-billion dollar anti-kleptocracy investigation into 1MDB.
Mahathir said anyone who wants to claim ownership of the yacht must show proof that the vessel was not bought with stolen funds.
The US Department of Justice has said more than $4bn was misappropriated by high-level officials from the fund and their associates.
"Accordingly the Equanimity is properly seized under the laws of Malaysia", Thomas said in a statement.