Superyacht seized over alleged links to financial scandal that helped topple government arrives in Malaysia

A $250m superyacht seized six months ago over its alleged links to a multi-billion dollar financial scandal arrived at Port Klang in Malaysia on Tuesday, where it was immediately boarded by local law enforcement officers.

The 300ft Equanimity, whose opulent amenities include a helipad, plunge pool, and cinema, is among luxury assets the US Department of Justice alleges were bought using money stolen from the 1 Malaysian Development Berhad fund, set up by Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Accusations of massive corruption at the 1MDB fund were a major factor behind the shock defeat of Mr Najib and his long-ruling coalition in a May election, ushering in a reformist alliance headed by his former mentor Mahathir Mohammed.

Dr Mahathir’s administration was quick to reinstate an investigation into the alleged looting of the state fund. 

US investigators have claimed that Mr Najib’s associates stole and laundered $4.5 billion (£3.4bn) from the fund between 2009 to 2014, and 1MDB is being probed in at least six countries for alleged money laundering and graft.

The yacht is among high-end assets including real estate, jewellery and a Picasso painting that American investigators claim were bought with money diverted from the state fund.

The 300ft Equanimity's opulent amenities include a helipad, plunge pool, and cinemaCredit:

The DOJ has alleged in lawsuits filed in the US that the yacht was bought by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, whose whereabouts are currently unknown.

Mr Low, an associate of Mr Najib, had no formal role at the fund but considerable influence over it, according to US court documents.

The Malaysian authorities have revoked his passport and issued an arrest warrant although he has previously denied any wrongdoing.

The vessel, which carries 17 crew members and boasts an interior clad in marble and gold leaf, was initially impounded in February in the holiday resort of Bali by the Indonesian police in a joint operation with the FBI.

A statement issued by the Malaysian government on Tuesday thanked the Indonesian and American governments for their cooperation.

Mr Low issued a statement through his U.S. attorney on Monday protesting the handover of the yacht as an "illegal act" for ignoring court proceedings in the United States.

Dr Mahathir has said anyone who wants to claim ownership of the yacht must show proof that the vessel was not bought with stolen funds.

"We want to know where they obtained so much money to buy such an expensive yacht," he said in a Facebook video on Monday.

Meanwhile, Mr Razak, who also denies all wrongdoing, will be charged on Wednesday under a money-laundering act, Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency said.

The former leader and his wife Rosmah Mansoor have been barred from leaving Malaysia since the election.

Last month, Najib was arrested and charged with abuse of power and criminal breach of trust related to an alleged transfer of 42 million ringgit ($10.31 million) into his personal bank account from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.

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He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released after posting bail.

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