Equanimity belongs to 1MDB, High Court rules

The superyacht Equanimity is docked at the Boustead Cruise Centre Terminal in Port Klang August 11, 2018. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali
The superyacht Equanimity is docked at the Boustead Cruise Centre Terminal in Port Klang August 11, 2018. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 — The High Court today ruled that 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) subsidiaries, 1MDB Energy Holdings Ltd and 1MDB Global Investment Ltd, are the rightful owners of superyacht Equanimity.

Malaysiakini reported that the judgment-in-default was made by Judicial Commissioner Khadijah Idris in her chambers today after no one came forward to challenge the claim jointly made by the government and 1MDB on August 6.

Lawyer Sitpah Selvaratnam, who heads the government-appointed legal team to take ownership of the vessel, told reporters of the decision earlier.

Lawyer Ong Chee Kuan said that since this was an admiralty court proceeding, the court did not only take into account the absence of any challenges to the government and 1MDB’s claims, but also the merits of their arguments.

On October 5, the same court granted an application by the four plaintiffs to appoint a central broker and an international appraiser to handle the sale of the Equanimity, which purportedly belongs to fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low.

It followed a decision on August 24, by the same court, that granted an application by the four plaintiffs to sell the Equanimity.

The superyacht was brought to Port Klang on August 7 after Indonesian authorities handed it over to Malaysia following its seizure off Bali in February at the request of the US authorities as part of the corruption investigation launched by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) into 1MDB.

Today’s decision means that 1MDB will be able to collect the proceeds of the sale — minus expenses — once the sale is complete.

The government and 1MDB had claimed in court that 1MDB ought to be the rightful owner of the Equanimity since it had been purchased using 1MDB funds, citing allegations in the DoJ’s civil forfeiture claim that is also meant to seize the vessel.

The vessel is officially registered to Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd and operated by Wilson Yacht Management Ltd, but authorities in various jurisdictions have maintained that it belongs to Jho Low.

Equanimity Ltd had claimed that ownership of the vessel’s future buyers would be called into question as the matter is still being contested in US courts, but government-appointed lawyer Jeremy M. Joseph had denied this, saying that a judicial sale would provide buyers with a clean title to the vessel.

London-based broker Burgess had likewise indicated that the judicial sale would be free of encumbrances to potential buyers.

“We are advised that in accordance with admiralty law, the judicial sale will provide the buyer with an internationally recognised ownership title free of mortgage, attachment and all encumbrances,” it said on its website.

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