Indonesia to hand over luxury yacht to US amid 1MDB probe

JAKARTA - Indonesia is making preparations to hand over a luxury yacht seized in Bali last month to US authorities targeting assets allegedly bought with money siphoned off from a Malaysian state fund, a police official said on Thursday.

The Cayman Islands-flagged Equanimity was impounded by Indonesia amid a multi-billion dollar corruption investigation launched by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and tied to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Indonesian police and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were "preparing paperwork" for a hand over of the ship, said Daniel Silitonga, deputy director of economic and special crimes at Indonesia's criminal investigation bureau.

Silitonga said authorities had taken the vessel's logbook but a search had not found any money on board.

Police have also questioned the captain and crew but had found no link to an investigation into money laundering, said Agung Setya, director of economic and special crimes at Indonesia's criminal investigation bureau.

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

A total of $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to civil lawsuits filed by the DOJ.

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

Among assets sought under the DOJ investigation is Equanimity, a $250 million yacht bought by Malaysian financier Jho Low, named as a key figure in the US lawsuits which say he used proceeds diverted from 1MDB to buy it.

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

A spokesperson for Low was quoted in Malaysian media last week as saying it was "disappointing that, rather than reflecting on the deeply flawed and politically motivated allegations, the DOJ is continuing with its pattern of global over reach - all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing".

Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement that the seizure of Equanimity in Indonesia was a US court civil forfeiture action against Low and not against 1MDB.

"The Royal Malaysian Police has also not received any information from Indonesian authorities or the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the seizure of the Equanimity in Indonesian waters on Feb 28. The RMP has also not been contacted by any other party to assist in the investigation regarding the yacht."