Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says Indonesia has returned a luxury yacht linked with the multi-billion dollar scandal involving sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
The yacht, dubbed Equanimity, was seized by Indonesian authorities off the resort island of Bali in February at the request of the U.S. Justice Department, which claims a total of $4.5 billion was looted from 1MDB. The Cayman Islands-registered vessel, believed to be worth $250 million, was bought by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, who U.S. officials say bought the luxury boat with stolen 1MDB funds.
Prime Minister Mahathir thanked Indonesia for the return of the luxury yacht in a Facebook post Monday. A spokesman for Mahathir says the yacht will arrive in Malaysia in 48 hours.
The U.S. Justice Department says some of the $4.5 billion stolen from 1MDB landed in the personal bank accounts of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who created the state-owned fund while in office. Najib was arrested last month and charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of corruption.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. His trial is tentatively set to begin next February.
The scandal led to the stunning electoral victory in May by a coalition led by the 92-year-old Mahathir over Najib’s National Front coalition, which had ruled Malaysia uninterrupted since gaining independence in 1957 – 22 of those years under Mahathir himself.
Since his ouster, Najib has been barred from leaving Malaysia and questioned by the government’s anti-graft agency along with his wife, Rosmah Mansor.
Just days before his arrest, Malaysian police said they had seized nearly $275 million in cash, jewelry and luxury handbags in raids on properties linked to Najib. The inventory included 12,000 pieces of jewelry, 567 handbags, 423 watches and 234 pairs of sunglasses. The most expensive item was a necklace worth more than $1 million.