For a year, U.S. authorities have stayed in the limelight owing to sanctions on Russian billionaires that has led to the seizure of superyachts costing hundreds of millions of dollars. However, it is something they have been doing for a long time. Many would assume the seizure of Tango superyacht, a $90 million vessel belonging to sanctioned Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg was the first time the FBI got involved in impounding a boat, but that’s not the case. In 2018, the FBI seized a $250 million megayacht, Equanimity, to recover $540 million in assets allegedly stolen from an investment fund. The FBI was investigating a multibillion-dollar corruption at a Malaysian state-run investment fund, 1MBD.
The $4.5 billion fund was set up in 2009 by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Equanimity was part of the assets accumulated using money stolen from 1MDB. Indonesian police and the U.S. Justice Department worked together to seize the 300-footer on Benoa Bay, a tourist island of Bali. “We have legal confirmation that this asset is the result of a crime,” Agung Setya, director of economic crimes at Indonesia’s national police, said. “Our law stipulates that anyone who hides an asset resulting from the proceeds of crime is committing a money laundering crime.”
$250 million Equanimity belonged to Malaysian financier Jho Low, chief executive of Hong Kong investment firm Jynwel Capital. Low was accused of stealing more than $400 million from the fund. He fled Hong Kong, leaving Equanimity to be seized and its 34 crew questioned.
The magnificent $250 million luxury yacht wasn’t the only asset created from embezzled funds. Low used stolen 1MDB funds to shop for a private jet, a hotel, and real estate in New York. He even showered beauty Miranda Kerr with jewels during a vacation on Equanimity. The stunning Australian model and actress returned millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry to U.S. authorities given to her by Low. It was not only this Victoria’s Secret showstopper but also Leonardo Di Caprio who paid the price for being close to Jho Low. The actor was even grilled by the FBI over his ties with Low.
Meet the elegant Equanimity yacht –
The yacht changed owners and got a new name, but the meaning and grandeur remained unchanged. Equanimity became Tranquility after being seized by the Malaysian authorities in 2018 and judicially sold to the Genting Group in early 2019. The 300 feet Oceanco beauty was heavily inspired by South Asian architecture. Designed by Winch Design, the vessel looked exceptional and distinct owing to materials like wenge, gold leaf, bamboo, and marble.
Tranquility featured a sauna, helicopter landing pad, swimming pool, gym, spa, movie theatre, and an on-deck Jacuzzi.
The five-decker boasts a full-beam main suite on the upper deck, complete with a private owner’s study and an opulent en suite bathroom with a free-standing bathtub. The mammoth could sleep 26 guests in 13 guest cabins, making her an ideal yacht for entertaining.
The spacious main saloon housed several comfortable lounge areas, a formal dining room, and a show-stopping perspex piano. Aptly named Equanimity and then Tranquility as the highlight of the beautiful Oceanco boat is the spa with an impressive Hammam, experiential shower, plunge pool, sauna, and massage room.
Equanimity yacht was sold for half its value –
After impounding financier Jho Low’s $250 million pleasure craft, Malaysia started an auction of the Equanimity through the yacht brokerage firm Burgess. Equanimity was sold to Genting Malaysia Bhd for $126 million. The Malaysian government was more than happy with the price offered, mainly because maintaining the luxury vessel cost the government nearly $3 million. “This $126 million is the best offer received over the five months from October 2018, when Equanimity was first put up for sale. Many offers were received in this period, and a few were over $100 million.”
Arresting a luxury vessel and maintaining one are two different ballgames-
While U.S. authorities go after superyachts with great gusto, maintaining the seized luxury vessels is a price the governments pay. The FBI has confiscated three superyachts so far. The Alfa Nero, Amadea, and Tango, just the upkeep of these yachts is costing the American tax payer millions of dollars a month. To give an idea, the $325 million Amadea yacht currently docked in San Diego has accumulated $120,000 in docking charges and this does not include the $10 million annual cost for its upkeep. While this might be a drop in the bucket for the mighty United States but this same yacht which was first impounded in Fiji cost the tiny nation $5 million, this was 1% of the country’s annual health budget.
Countries like France and Spain enthusiastically seized luxury yachts worth billions but eventually had to turn to sanctioned oligarch owners for money to maintain their arrested vessels. The EU’s most powerful nation Germany is paying $70,000 per day for the upkeep of Alisher Usmanov’s Dilbar megayacht.