Mahathir: Malaysia will only seek return of Jho Low's jet if it is worthwhile

The Star/Asia News Network

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia will seek to bring back the US$35 million (S$48 million) business jet linked to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho if it is worthwhile, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The Bombardier Global 5000 has come under the microscope again after a company which claimed ownership of the jet said a US federal court on Wednesday had approved an agreement between the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the firm to start a bidding process to sell the jet.

Dr Mahathir was asked by reporters about this after he attended an event here yesterday.

"If it is worthwhile, we will bring it back," he said.

Yesterday, a statement issued on behalf of the company concerned, Global One Aviation (Global 5000) Ltd, said: “The parties have agreed that a formal bidding process to sell the jet should be undertaken immediately, with the proceeds of the sale held in escrow in the United States until the legal rights of the various parties can be determined through proper judicial proceedings.”

The statement said an agreement was reached in co-operation with the US government to ensure the parties' legal rights with respect to the jet are maintained, and that the jet's value is not depleted while the claims are appropriately resolved.

A copy of the court document announcing the agreement said the bidding process would start 15 days after the entry of the order.

The order by the US District Court for the Central District of California was dated Oct 29. The court document said bids would be accepted for a period of 25 days.

The Malaysian government wants to bring back the private jet, which was impounded by the Singaporean authorities in 2017.

It was reported that the aircraft is part of some US$1bil (RM4.18bil) in assets allegedly acquired with funds misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

The statement on behalf on Global One Aviation hit out against Malaysia's move to seize the Equanimity, a US$250mil (RM1.05bil) yacht linked to Low.

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"These rights and protections afforded by the United States are all the more important given that the jet is currently located in Singapore.

"As recently demonstrated by the Malaysian government's illegal seizure of the yacht Equanimity, the unlawful commandeering of an asset outside of sovereign legal proceedings is not only an affront to the rule of law and international comity, but also greatly diminishes the fair market value of the asset," the statement said.

On Oct 19, the Kuala Lumpur High Court declared that the government and 1MDB were the beneficiary owner of the Equanimity and that the government was free to sell the yacht.

The judgment came after its registered owner failed to appear in court to claim the vessel. The bidding process for the yacht is ongoing and ends on Nov 28.