JAKARTA - Investigations into a luxury yacht linked to a cross-border financial case are continuing, with the National Police questioning officers from the immigration office and the Benoa harbor authority on Friday.
The police seized the yacht Equanimity on Wednesday off the resort island of Bali, after receiving a request from the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation to help secure the vessel they seek as part of their probe into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case.
The police are now looking into whether or not the yacht violated immigration procedures in entering Indonesian waters, while still investigating the purpose of the visit in Bali.
“We are still in the process of matching the data we get from the yacht with the data we get from the FBI,” said Sr. Comr. Daniel Tahi Monang Silitonga, deputy director for financial crimes at the National Police’s detective unit, in Bali on Friday.
According to the police, the yacht entered Bali’s Benoa harbor on Nov. 20 last year, but its movements after arriving remains unknown.
The police have questioned the South African captain of the yacht, identified as Rolf, and two other crew members on Thursday, and suspected the skipper had deliberately turned off the automated identification system (AIS) during its voyage in Indonesian waters to avoid pursuit of the FBI, tribunnews.com reported.
A total of 29 crew members of various nationalities are now under police custody on board the vessel.
Rando Purba, the lawyer of yacht’s crew, said his clients denied the allegation that they tried to avoid FBI pursuit, saying the yacht entered Indonesia for vacation purposes.
“It was to enjoy Indonesia,” Rando told The Jakarta Post.
The captain, Rando claimed, had to turn off the AIS to avoid the potential of threats in the Andaman Sea before entering Phuket in Thailand. From Phuket, the yacht continued its trip to Bali with the AIS turned on, he added.
“The crew received warning from local authorities on the way from Colombo to Phuket that they were in a piracy-prone zone. They sent the warning to all yachts crossing the Andaman Sea, not only to this yacht.”
The Cayman Island-registered yacht was reported to have travelled to at least five tourist spots in Indonesia, including Raja Ampat in West Papua and Maluku Islands.
Rando confirmed that Equanimity arrived in Indonesia on Nov. 20, 2017 and had travelled to several spots in the archipelago to entertain guests.
“The guests stayed in resorts where the yacht stopped. They had no guests staying on the yacht during the police raid,” Rando said.
Equanimity is believed to be owned by Malaysian financier Jho Low, who allegedly procured the US50 million (S$65.98 million) vessel using money looted from 1MDB, as reported by Reuters.
The US Justice Department alleges in civil lawsuits that substantial sums were siphoned off from 1MDB by the fund’s officials and their associates.
The company is now being investigated for money laundering by at least six countries, including Hong Kong, the US and Switzerland.