A lawyer acting for fugitive businessperson Jho Low has lashed out at Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad over plans by Indonesia to hand over 1MDB-linked superyacht, the Equanimity, to Malaysia.
In a statement, Low's lawyer James F Haggerty said the transfer of the ship was a violation of court rulings in both Indonesia and the US.
"The action of the Mahathir government in illegitimately taking this asset shows just how quickly the rule of law disappears in Mahathir's regime.
"As he did in Malaysia's 1988 judicial crisis, Mahathir is showing the world that his new regime still has no interest in the rule of law," Haggerty said.
The 1988 judicial crisis refers to the dismissal of then lord president Salleh Abbas during Mahathir's first tenure as prime minister.
Mahathir has denied responsibility for the sacking, pushing the blame instead onto the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at the time.
Additionally, Low's lawyer stated that Low had been compelled to issue a statement on the latest developments as he would "inevitably drawn into the media coverage over this illegal seizure by the Malaysian government".
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) had filed a civil forfeiture suit on the US$250 million vessel last year, claiming that it was bought using the proceeds of misappropriated 1MDB funds that had been laundered through the US financial system, and that Low owns the vessel through a series of intermediaries including Equanimity Ltd.
1MDB has denied its money was misappropriated, while Low claims that allegations against him are politically motivated.
Timeline of superyacht seizure
On Feb 28, Indonesian authorities boarded and seized the vessel at the DOJ's request.
However, the South Jakarta District Court ruled that the seizure is invalid because the DOJ’s mutual legal assistance request was channelled directly to the Indonesian police, whereas Indonesian law requires the MLA request to be made through the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.
Indonesian police boarded the superyacht again in July amid negotiations between Jakarta and Washington DC to seize the craft.
This was after the DOJ submitted a request for mutual legal assistance (MLA) to the Indonesian Ministry of Law and Human Rights on April 19, which the latter executed nearly two months later, on July 9.
A lawyer representing the Equanimity's operators, however, said that an Indonesian court must first give approval for the police to issue a formal seizure notice against the superyacht.
Indonesian police told Malaysiakini the handover of the Equanimity to Malaysia is expected to happen sometime early next week.