Malaysia to sell 1MDB-linked superyacht for $126m

The transaction is the first major asset sale by Malaysia to recover billions stolen from state fund 1MDB.

    Investigators say the $250m yacht was bought with funds diverted from the 1MDB fund [File: Lai Seng Sin/Reuters]
    Investigators say the $250m yacht was bought with funds diverted from the 1MDB fund [File: Lai Seng Sin/Reuters]

    Malaysia will sell a luxury yacht allegedly bought with money stolen from state fund 1MDB for $126m, authorities have said, a move that marks the first major asset sale by Kuala Lumpur to recover billions lost from the fund.

    The announcement on Wednesday came as Malaysia's former leader, Najib Razak, went on trial for corruption charges linked to the 1MDB controversy. 

    Tommy Thomas, the attorney general, said the Admiralty Court approved the sale of the Equanimity, which has lavish amenities including a helicopter landing pad, plunge pool, gymnasium and a cinema, to casino operator Genting Malaysia Bhd. 

    US and Malaysian investigators say the $250m yacht was bought with funds diverted from the 1MDB fund by fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, believed to be a key figure in the theft and international laundering of $4.5bn from 1MDB.

    Malaysia set a minimum price tag of $130m when it put the 91-metre yacht up for sale in October, but had struggled to find a buyer.

    "Many offers were received ... and a few were over $100m," Thomas said in a statement, adding that Genting would pay end of April, making it the "highest recovery to date" for the government from the scandal. 

    A spokesman for Low called the sale "a failed PR stunt", saying Malaysia had accepted a "bargain basement sale price".

    Malaysian police have issued an arrest warrant and filed criminal charges against Low, but his whereabouts are unknown.

    He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

    1MDB, founded by Najib in 2009, is being investigated by at least six countries for money laundering and corruption.

    The multibillion-dollar fraud at the fund led to Najib's shocking electoral defeat last May and ushered in the country's first change of power since independence from Britain in 1957.

    Within two months of the vote, the deposed leader was barred from leaving Malaysia and arrested. 

    On Wednesday, Najib faced the first of several trials over the alleged looting of 1MDB.

    The 65-year-old pleaded not guilty to the three counts each of criminal breach of trust and money laundering, and one count of abuse of power. They relate to suspected transfers totalling 42 million ringgit ($10.3m) to his bank account from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.

    Malaysia: The World's Biggest Heist

    101 East

    Malaysia: The World's Biggest Heist

    SOURCE: News agencies