A luxury yacht allegedly paid for with funds from a multi-billion-dollar scandal that helped topple Malaysia's government arrived outside Kuala Lumpur today, with authorities hoping it will help in their prosecution of the country's disgraced former leader.
The 300-foot (90-metre) Equanimity, equipped with pool, helicopter landing pad and cinema, belonged to Jho Low, a flamboyant international financier who allegedly played a central role in the 1MDB controversy that has engulfed former prime minister Najib Razak.
The yacht -- worth about USD 250 million -- was handed over by Indonesian authorities who had seized it off the tourist island of Bali in February.
The large, blue and white boat arrived in Port Klang, west of the capital, after setting sail from the Indonesian island of Batam. It was accompanied by a Malaysian navy frigate and three smaller vessels.
A large team of officials was seen entering the yacht. Malaysia's attorney-general welcomed the boat being turned over, and said that "sensitive and delicate negotiations" had taken place between Malaysia, Indonesia and the US to ensure it happened.
Indonesian authorities impounded the boat on a request from the US Department of Justice, which is seeking to seize USD 1.7 billion of assets allegedly bought with money looted from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
Najib, his cronies and family members are accused of stealing huge sums from 1MDB in a sophisticated fraud that spanned the globe.
Najib's coalition, which had ruled Malaysia uninterrupted for over six decades, suffered a shock election defeat in May to an alliance headed by his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad, 93, in large part due to the corruption allegations.
The ex-prime minister was arrested and charged with corruption last month. Najib, who set up and oversaw 1MDB, denies any wrongdoing.
In a civil suit seeking to seize assets allegedly bought with 1MDB money, the DoJ alleges that playboy financier Jho Low used about USD 250 million stolen from the fund to purchase the Cayman Islands-registered yacht.
Jho Low -- full name Low Taek Jho -- had no official positions at 1MDB but was said to exert great influence over the fund. His current whereabouts are unknown but Malaysian authorities have said they want to bring him back to the country and prosecute him.
The government has said it plans to open the Equanimity to public viewing, before eventually selling it off.
Legal experts say the boat could bolster the case against Najib and others linked to the scandal.
Cynthia Gabriel, a member of an official team set up to recover assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB money, said that the Equanimity being handed over to Malaysia was "very significant".
In a filing to a California court, the justice department proposed "that all proceedings in this action be suspended in order to give the government and any interested claimant the opportunity to inquire of Malaysia through formal channels what its intentions are with respect to the defendant yacht".
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)