The seizure of the RM1bn superyacht virtually guarantees that the 1MDB scandal will take centre stage in the coming general election, writes Anil Netto.
So the Equanimity has finally been seized by of all people, the Indonesian authorities, working together with the FBI since 21 February 2018, within sniffing distance of Malaysia.
It is quite the irony given that many have been tracking it all around the world in Macao, Hong Kong, New Zealand among other places using ship-tracking websites.
Many questions arise: why come to Bali and near the highly monitored Straits of Malacca? Surely that must have been testing luck. How did the Indonesians get involved when the superyacht was essentially under a US Department of Justice/FBI probe?
It was not long ago that Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi said the government had received no information about the superyacht after it reportedly docked in Aceh on 23 October 2017. “No information on this has reached me,” he said then.
The Equanimity, which has a top speed of 19.5kts, has reportedly been in Indonesian waters since November. (Why didn’t the vessel come to Malaysia? But then, over here an oil tanker that was seized seems to have vanished a couple of days ago!)
The 91.5m-long superyacht, built in the Netherlands and delivered in 2014, was allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds, and the DoJ had been seeking to forfeit almost RM7bn in assets (including the superyacht) through civil lawsuits before it switched to a criminal probe.
A yachting website says the gleaming steel-and-aluminium luxury boat is equipped with “a spa and beach club, a beauty salon, a gym, a sauna, a Turkish bath and a large pool” and comes with 14 cabins for 28 guests and requires a crew of 33. Talk about living it up at a time when many Malaysians are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living.
Isn’t it ironic that a vessel called Equanimity (meaning calmness or composure) is now at the centre of a global storm? Jho Low’s reaction to its seizure, made through a spokesperson, was anything but equanimous as he lashed out at the DoJ for “global overreach”. But who is this spokesperson, and where is Jho Low hiding now?
For the yacht to be now found this close to Malaysia, this close to the general election here, virtually guarantees that the 1MDB scandal, along with massive corruption, will take centre stage in the campaign. (The downside is that it might eclipse many other critical issues such as the use of non-democratic means to remain in power, an overcentralised federal system, neoliberal policies, unsustainable development and a lack of affordable housing.)
Of all the rotten luck for the ruling coalition, when they would much rather the 1MDB issue be forgotten after Treasury Secretary General Irwan Serigar said 1MDB would be shut down as soon as its debts are paid.
But paid out of what funds? Belonging to whom? Rafizi had plenty to say about that yesterday.
The key question is, how can property development profit be used to pay off 1MDB debt especially when 1MDB acquired the land on the cheap from the government? Any large property development profit (as a result of having acquired cheap land) should rightly belong to the government (ie the Malaysian people) – and not be used to pay off huge 1MDB debt as a result of bonds/loans/borrowings taken to finance goodness-knows-what. But then there is a black hole to cover in 1MDB.
And now this yacht has been seized. Not brilliant timing for the BN as it heads to the polls, just when it was trying to put a lid on the Robert Kuok brouhaha. Will we now see more revelations in the coming weeks before the general election?