Yacht at centre of Malaysia 1MDB scandal put up for auction

Auction for super-yacht, Equanimity, closes in one month and bidders must pay a $1m deposit to take part.

    Equanimity, the luxury yacht seized in connection with the 1MDB scandal, arrives at Port Klang in August [Lai Seng Sin/Reuters]
    Equanimity, the luxury yacht seized in connection with the 1MDB scandal, arrives at Port Klang in August [Lai Seng Sin/Reuters]

    Equanimity, the luxury ocean-going yacht at the heart of the 1MDB scandal, went on sale on Monday as Malaysia's new government tries to retrieve some of the billions of dollars that are thought to have gone missing from the state fund.

    The sale is being handled by London-based brokerage, Burgess Yachts.

    "The judicial sales process will follow strict guidelines, but essentially shall be by the submission of sealed bids by qualified potential buyers, to be opened by the Sheriff of the High Court of Malaya in November/December 2018," the broker said on its website.

    1MDB lawyer Ong Chee Kwan confirmed the sale on Friday after a series of court hearings.

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    "Those who are interested to bid need to pay one million dollars as deposit," he said. The auction closes on November 28.

    The $250m Equanimity has been anchored at Port Klang on Malaysia's west coast since August, after being seized in Bali at the request of US authorities investigating the 1MDB scandal.

    The US Department of Justice has said more than $4.5bn was stolen from 1MDB by high-level officials and their associates and used to fund increasingly extravagant lifestyles. At least six countries including Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States are investigating what happened.

    'Impressive beach club'

    The US said Jho Low, the Malaysian financier accused of being at the centre of the corruption scandal, bought the 91.5-metre Equanimity with money diverted from the fund and advised its builders on his preferred specifications.

    Burgess Yachts said under admiralty law, the judicial sale would provide any buyer with an internationally recognised ownership title free of mortgage, attachment and all encumbrances.

    Low, who has so far evaded investigators, has issued statements through US lawyers claiming the transfer of the yacht to Malaysia was illegal, but he did not claim ownership, allowing a Malaysian courtto award ownership to 1MDB and the government.

    Super-yacht Equanimity belonged to the Malaysian businessman known as Jho Lo [Ahmad Yusini/EPA]

    The teak-decked ocean-going ship, which was built by Oceanco in the Netherlands in 2014, can accommodate as many as 22 guests in its suites and boasts an "impressive beach club", according to Burgess.

    It also has an extensive gym and spa facilities with a massage room, hammam and sauna, as well as a helipad.

    Former Prime Minister Najib Razak set up the 1MDB fund with Jho Low's assistance in 2009, but investigators allege huge sums of money were stolen through a web of offshore bank accounts.

    Najib has appeared in court four times since his party lost power in May's general election amid simmering public anger over 1MDB.

    It was the first change in government since the country won its independence from the UK in 1957.

    Rosmah Mansor, Najib's wife, has also been charged. Both have pleaded not guilty and their trials will start next year.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies