Indonesia seizes luxury yacht linked to 1MDB probe

Vessel was sought by US Justice Department in relation to 1MDB probe

JAKARTA: Indonesia yesterday seized a luxury yacht in Bali sought by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) as part of a multi-billion dollar corruption investigation linked to Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

"We have been inspecting the crew since yesterday, and now we are taking action since we have received approval from the court to seize the boat," Mr Agung Setya, director of economic and special crimes at Indonesia's Criminal Investigation Agency, told Metro TV.

Television footage in Indonesia showed officials talking to the crew on board the moored yacht, named Equanimity, at Benoa Bay.

Mr Agung said there were 34 crew on board.

The official said it was not certain whether the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would be involved.

Said Mr Agung: "We will see how this develops... Whether we can do a joint investigation later or whether we can hand it over later, we are in the process of collecting and investigating."

A total of US$4.5 billion (S$5.9 billion) was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to civil lawsuits filed by the DOJ in the past two years.

1MDB is at the centre of money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak set up 1MDB in 2009 and served as chairman of its advisory board until last year. He and the fund have denied any wrongdoing.

Last August, the DOJ asked for a stay on civil lawsuits seeking to seize more than US$1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds because it was conducting a related criminal probe.

Among the assets sought were a US$250 million luxury yacht bought by Malaysian financier Jho Low, named as a key figure in the US lawsuits.

The lawsuits claimed that Mr Low used proceeds diverted from 1MDB to procure Equanimity, which they described as a 300-foot yacht registered in Cayman Islands.

Mr Low's whereabouts are unknown and his Hong Kong company has not responded to requests for comment. - REUTERS