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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The controversial luxury yacht.

It is billed as the 50th biggest luxury yacht in the world, but is now number one in terms of controversy.

She is certainly impressive.

Built by Oceanco to an Andrew Winch design, and with Azure Naval Architects engineering, the yacht Equanimity was delivered to her owner in June 2014.  Undoubtedly, he enjoyed her. The yacht can accommodate 26 guests in 9 staterooms and has a crew of 28. Equanimity’s features include a spa and beach club, a beauty salon, a gym, a sauna, a Turkish bath and a large pool. The interior has some oriental inspired themes, lush with bamboo and gold.

The identity of the owner is a bit of an imponderable.   According to one source, Do Won Chang is the lucky fellow, while other experts says that Malaysian billionaire Jho Low is the owner.  Whatever (or whoever), the owner has Chinese roots -- which could mean either man, but was confirmed as Low in a 2017 USA court case. 

Jho Low is an interesting man, with interesting ancestors.  His grandfather, Meng Tak, settled in Thailand in the early 1960s, and accumulated great riches as a mining and liquor-distillery entrepreneur.   Most of this was invested in real estate.

Low's father was Sri Larry Low Hock Peng (known as Larry Low).  He carried on under the name of Strategic Resources Global,also dabbling profitably in the stock market, holding stakes in the Frencken Group, among others.  It seems he also had excellent connections in Malaysia, because the King accorded him the honor of Commander of the Order of Loyalty to the Crown of Malaysia, something the government of Malaysia may be regretting, right now.

Jho Low himself is the co-founder and CEO of Jynwel Capital Ltd., an international investment and advistory firm based in Hong Kong.  Through this body, the family has invested heavily in the US, owning shares, in EMI, Myla Lingerie, and the Park Lane Hotel in New York.

From these heights the family fortunes have abruptly plummeted.  Last year, US authorities filed a criminal case against Jho Low, claiming that he had transferred one billion greenbacks from the Malaysian authorities to a private account.  Allegedly, a strategic investment and development company owned by the government of Malaysia, called 1MDB, formed a joint venture with a Saudi oil company, PetroSaudi International, for this illicit shifting around of funds.  The money went into a Swiss bank account held in the name of Good Star Ltd., which was owned by Low.

With this money, he bought:

A Bombardier 5000 private jet
A Van Gogh painting
Two paintings by Monet
Two paintings by Picasso (one of which he gave to Leonardo Dicaprio for his birthday)
A penthouse in the Walker Tower in New York
A Laurel mansion in Beverly Hills
The Quentas townhouse in London
A penthouse in Stratton Street, London
A 22-carat pink diamond necklace
And the yacht Equanimity

Oh dear.  Flaunting such wealth can be a big mistake, as important people start asking where it came from ... and why.

Last month, as the Equanimity lay quietly in Benoa Bay, Bali, Indonesian police marched and board and seized her, at the request of the US and Malaysia.

You can read all about it in Old Salt Blog.

As Rick Spilman points out, 1MDB was set up by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, and it would only be natural if he and his government were panicking.

According to the Singapore Straits Times, they are calling it FAKE NEWS, and are issuing stern warnings.

Deputy Minister for Communications and Multimedia Jailani Johari said, as quoted by the Malay language Sinar Harian daily, that following the seizure in Bali of luxury yacht Equanimity believed to be owned by businessman Low Taek Jho, the foreign media has been spreading fake news to tarnish Datuk Seri Najib's name ahead of the upcoming general election.
The warning came as the Malaysian government is preparing legislation to strengthen punishments to whom it deem to be spreading "fake news".
"The ministry has identified several news portals that are trying to revive the 1MDB issue following the seizure of the Equanimity. Among those portals are The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and the latest, MSNBC," Datuk Seri was quoted Jailani as saying on Sunday (March 11) by Sinar Harian.
"While the government is trying to combat fake news here, these issues are brought up by sources from outside the country," he added. "We believe that these efforts are by certain quarters who have a political agenda and are trying to damage the prime minister's good name" ahead of the 14th general election.
His ministry is monitoring the matter through the country's Internet regulator, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, and advised these news outlets to stop publishing such "fake news".
The 1MDB fund is at the centre of billion-dollar money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the Unied States, Switzerland and Singapore.
The US Justice Department alleges in civil lawsuits that US$4.5 billion (S$5.93 billion) was stolen from 1MDB - which was set up by Mr Najib - in a campaign of fraud and money-laundering.

Mr Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.
The suits list US$1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with the stolen funds, which US officials are seeking to recover.
Those assets include the 90m yacht Equanimity which US officials said was purchased by Malaysian financier Mr Low, also known as Jho Low, an unofficial adviser to 1MDB. The boat was seized by Indonesian authorities in Bali two weeks ago at the request of US investigators.
The yacht was handed over to the FBI on Thursday (March 8).
Malaysia's police chief said there is no link between Mr Low and 1MDB.
A spokesman for Mr Low has said the yacht's seizure was part of the DOJ's "pattern of global overreach - all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing" in the 1MDB case.
The Malaysian goverment is meanwhile preparing legislation proposing that those who spread "fake news" be punishable with fines of up to RM500,000 (S$159,000) and 10 years in jail. This is 10 times the limit for transmitting data deemed "offensive" and a possible "annoyance", a clause which has already been criticised for stifling free speech.
All very mysterious.  Maybe it will all be explained, one day, but, in the meantime, it seems that there is a lovely yacht coming up for sale. 

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