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No one wants to buy an infamous US$130m yacht seized in 1MDB scandal

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Equanimity is the sort of yacht that makes billionaires drool. But finding a buyer among the world's super-rich is proving tough.

[LONDON] Equanimity is the sort of yacht that makes billionaires drool. But finding a buyer among the world's super-rich is proving tough.

The 300-foot ship, formerly owned by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, failed to sell at auction last year after being seized by the Malaysian government and remains docked at a navy base near Kuala Lumpur.

"It's very difficult to get clients there," said Jonathan Beckett, chief executive officer of Burgess, which is handling the sale. It's a challenge to persuade a buyer in Monaco to even travel as far as the Italian port of Genoa to see yachts, he said, never mind Malaysia.

At a guide price of US$130 million, Equanimity is the largest yacht listed on Burgess's website and features a helicopter pad, room for 22 guests and even a spa and beauty salon. Just last year it was valued at US$250 million, but it has an infamous history.

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1MDB Scandal

Its former owner Low, better known as Jho Low, has been painted by US prosecutors as a central figure in Malaysia's 1MDB scandal, where billions of dollars were allegedly embezzled from the state investment company.

The vessel was put up for sale in October after being seized as part of global attempts to recoup assets allegedly bought with money embezzled through the state fund. Other items sought include a US$3.8 million diamond pendant he gave actress Miranda Kerr, as well as a US$3.2 million Picasso painting he gifted Leonardo DiCaprio.

Low has repeatedly maintained his innocence and faces charges including money laundering in Malaysia. He was charged in absentia as his whereabouts are unknown.

The Malaysian Admiralty Court ruled four months ago that the nation's government and 1MDB have control of the vessel. A Malaysian court declined last year to accept any of the sealed bids from interested buyers, so the vessel is being offered through a conventional sale through the end of March.

While there's been interest from both local and foreign buyers, all of the bids have been too low, Mr Beckett said this week at a Superyachts.com event in London. US individuals own the most superyachts, according to real estate broker Knight Frank's 2018 Wealth Report, while Saudi Arabia's elite own the longest vessels on average.

The Malaysian government is seeking a speedy sale of the vessel, which was built in 2014 and costs the government about 3 million ringgit (S$988,620) a month to maintain. Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is aiming to recover as much as US$4.5 billion of 1MDB funds that vanished before he took office.

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