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Malaysia to sell 1MDB-linked superyacht for $126 million

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By Reuters
Malaysia to sell 1MDB-linked superyacht for $126 million
FILE PHOTO: Seized luxury yacht Equanimity, belonging to fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, is brought to Boustead Cruise Terminal in Port Klang, Malaysia August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin/File Photo   -   Copyright  Lai Seng Sin(Reuters)

KUALALUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia will sell a superyacht allegedly bought with stolen funds from state fund 1MDB to casino operator Genting Malaysia Bhd for $126 million (95.7 million pounds), in the first major asset sale by Kuala Lumpur to recover billions lost from the fund.

The superyacht Equanimity is among assets allegedly bought by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho and his associates with money taken from the fund, U.S. and Malaysian investigators have said.

Jho Low, as he is known, allegedly paid $250 million for the 300-ft (91-m) yacht, which has an interior clad in marble and gold leaf, a spa and sauna, a 20-metre swimming pool, a movie theatre and helipad.

Malaysia set a minimum price tag of $130 million when it put the yacht up for sale in October, but had struggled to find a buyer.

“Many offers were received…and a few were over $100 million,” Attorney General Tommy Thomas said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that Genting would pay the $126 million by the end of April.

The government would save $4.4 million in agent’s commission since it negotiated directly with Genting Malaysia, he added.

A spokesman for Low called the sale “a failed PR stunt”, saying Malaysia had accepted a “bargain basement sale price”.

In a statement, Genting said the acquisition would give it “a unique and competitive edge for its premium customers business.” The purchase will not affect 2019 earnings, it said.

1MDB, founded by former prime minister Najib Razak, is being investigated by at least six countries for money laundering and corruption.

The U.S. Department of Justice has said about $4.5 billion siphoned from 1MDB was used by Low and his associates to buy the yacht, a private jet, as well as Picasso paintings, jewellery, and real estate.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, after his stunning victory in last year’s election, has vowed to recover the money allegedly stolen from 1MDB.

Malaysian police have issued an arrest warrant and filed criminal charges against Low, but his whereabouts are unknown.

Low has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Sam Holmes and Clarence Fernandez)