Malaysia illegitimately seized Jho Low’s yacht, says lawyer

(The Star) – A lawyer for Low Taek Jho is criticising the Malaysian government for “illegitimately” seizing Equanimity, the fugitive businessman’s luxury yacht.

James F. Haggerty, a spokesman for Low, also known as Jho Low, said the seizure of the US$250mil (RM1bil) yacht by the Malaysian authorities was against court rulings in Indonesia and the United States.

The seizure showed “just how quickly the rule of law had disappeared”, Haggerty added.

“It is a violation of an Indonesian law and court decision by a politically motivated Malaysian government bent on advancing its own political agenda with little regard to existing court rulings or basic legal rights,” he said in a statement yesterday.

In the statement, Haggerty claimed that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was showing the world that the government had “no interest in the rule of law”.

He said the issue was similar to Malaysia’s 1988 judicial crisis. That crisis came up during Dr Mahathir’s first tenure as prime minister when he tabled a Bill in Parliament to amend Articles 121 and 145 of the Federal Constitution.

Tun Salleh Abas, who was then the Lord President, made a statement defending the judiciary’s autonomy, which led to his suspension.

Dr Mahathir has denied responsibility and claimed that it was done under the orders of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at that time.

Haggerty said the US Department of Justice argued it was critical that they had possession of the yacht to ensure the asset retained its value until a fair court hearing could determine final ownership and the rights of all the parties involved.

“Actions like this make it increasingly clear that there is no jurisdiction where the issues in this case can be subject to a fair hearing, thanks to a global media circus fuelled by politically motivated parties whose aim is to convict Mr Low in the public arena,” Haggerty said.

The Star reported that Equanimity left the Tanjung Benoa port in Bali on Thursday and was headed for Batam.

The yacht is expected to arrive at Batam’s Batu Ampar port today before being handed over to the Malaysian government.

In February, the vessel was seized at the request of US authorities as part of a multi-billion dollar corruption investigation launched by the DoJ related to 1MDB.

However, the vessel was not allowed to leave Tanjung Benoa port.

In July, Indonesian police seized the yacht again following a formal request for legal assistance from the US authorities.

Reuters reported that the decision to hand over the yacht to Malaysia was reached following a personal request made by Dr Mahathir who visited Indonesia in June.