KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will sell a luxury yacht linked to the 1MDB financial scandal for $126 million to a local company, authorities said on Wednesday, as the country’s toppled leader went on trial over the controversy.
The Equanimity — equipped with a pool, helicopter landing pad and cinema — was originally bought by playboy financier Low Taek Jho with $250 million allegedly stolen from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
It was seized by Indonesia last year and sent to Malaysia in August after the long-ruling government of Najib Razak was unexpectedly ejected from office in a historic election.
Malaysia’s new government, led by veteran politician Mahathir Mohamad, has been seeking to claw back looted funds, and has for months been seeking buyers for the vessel.
Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said the Cayman Islands-registered yacht was being sold to Genting Malaysia, which operates hotels, resorts and the country’s only legal casino.
“The government of Malaysia is pleased to announce that the superyacht Equanimity is to be sold to Genting Malaysia at the price of $126 million,” he said
in a statement, adding the purchase would be completed by the end of April.
Thomas said the offer was the best Malaysia got since the vessel was put up for sale five months ago, and the government had received many offers, including a few over $100 million.
Before it was seized off the Indonesian tourist island of Bali in February last year, the yacht was believed to have been used by Low — better known as Jho Low — to sail around Asia, as he sought to evade arrest over the 1MDB scandal.
Low, allegedly a mastermind in the looting of 1MDB, is still at large, although he has been charged in absentia in Malaysia over the scandal.
Known for partying with A-list celebrities and flaunting his wealth, Low was a close associate of Najib, who now faces 42 charges of corruption, abuse of power and money laundering over his role in the 1MDB saga.
Najib’s first trial over the corruption scandal began in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday, where he pleaded not guilty to seven charges of corruption and money laundering.
The 1MDB saga, which allegedly saw billions of dollars stolen by Najib and his cronies, played a huge part in the election loss of Najib. He has denied any wrongdoing.