According to The Straits Times, the Singaporean newspaper, a filing from the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to a federal court in California on 30 June outlined the financing details for the purchase of Topaz (now A+). It has been revealed that Topaz was partially purchased with funds that had been misappropriated from the 1Malaysia Development Berhard (1MDB) wealth fund. Topaz is now the second superyacht to become embroiled in the 1MDB scandal following the seizure and subsequent sale of Equanimity.
The newspaper further claims that the 208-page filing is an attempt on the part of the DoJ to obtain a ruling to seize a variety of assets that were acquired with funds from 1MDB. Among the assets that the DoJ is hoping to seize are two Andy Warhol paintings, a Jean-Michel Basquiat artwork and an apartment in Paris.
The 1MDB fund was originally created with the purpose of investing in and developing economic projects that would benefit Malaysia and its people, primarily relying on the issuance of various debt securities to fund these projects. The DoJ claims that, over a period of roughly five years (2009 to at least 2014), a number of public officials, notably the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, and his adviser Jho Low, diverted billions of dollars for personal gain. Indeed, the 1MDB scandal has been described by the DoJ as “the largest kleptocracy case” in US history.
Low, who was also the owner of Equanimity, is said to have chartered Topaz on at least five occasions between 2013 and 2014. The discovery that Topaz was in part paid for with funds siphoned from 1MDB could prove to be a milestone in recovering the $3.5billion supposedly removed from the fund. The Malaysian government has long held that senior UAE officials were implicated in the embezzlement of funds from 1MDB, however, Abu Dhabi has maintained that this was only on the part of rogue officials who are now serving long sentences. However, the link between 1MDB’s misappropriated funds and Topaz formally links the missing funds to a top UAE official.
It is as yet unclear whether or not the DoJ intends to claim seizure of A+ in order to support is ongoing asset forfeiture campaign, nor is it clear whether or not the Malaysian government will claim and sell the asset as they did in the case of Equanimity.
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