Salleh: Opposition thriving on fake news about Equanimity

 |Mar 2, 2018

PETALING JAYA: Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak has criticised the opposition for harping on Indonesia’s impounding of a luxury yacht allegedly owned by Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low.

He claimed this was a failed attempt to mislead Malaysians with fake news.

In his blog yesterday, he said the opposition had seized on “unverified and unproven allegations” that “The Equanimity” was owned by Penang-born businessman Jho Low and was purchased with funds from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

“The reality is that the source of the allegations is contained in the United States’ Department of Justice (DoJ) civil lawsuit, which in fact has been put on hold since August 2017.”

Salleh claimed that apart from the “bare” allegations, the DOJ had not shown any tangible proof that Low was the actual owner or that the yacht was purchased with money from the sovereign wealth fund.

The Umno treasurer also claimed the DoJ had also yet to prove any of its allegations in a court of law.

“The Mahathir-led, DAP-dominated Pakatan Harapan (PH) is using fake news as their primary political weapon to garner votes for the coming general election,” he said.

He claimed that PPBM chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad started the “fake news attack” on 1MDB by wrongly stating that RM42 billion was missing.

“In their desperation, it is sad to see that Mahathir and the opposition are now mindlessly recycling unproven allegations and irresponsibly spreading fake news,” he added.

Salleh also said the opposition has failed to reveal that the alleged source of funds in the DOJ lawsuit was from Aabar BVI which, he added, had alleged business dealings with Low according to the suit.

“1MDB has repeatedly clarified that while it did have business dealings with Aabar BVI, 1MDB has not had any business dealings with Jho Low and, more importantly, 1MDB is not a party to the DOJ lawsuit,” he said.

Yesterday, Reuters reported Indonesian police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal Abduh as saying that police in Bali had seized the yacht which had arrived there.

This came after Indonesia received a letter on Feb 21 from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) requesting help to enforce a court order.

Last August, the DOJ asked for a stay on its civil lawsuits seeking to seize more than US$1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds because it was now conducting a related criminal probe.

Among the assets sought was Equanimity, cited as a US$250 million luxury yacht bought by Low, named as a key figure in the US lawsuits.

The DoJ lawsuits state Low used proceeds diverted from 1MDB to buy Equanimity, which it described as a 91m yacht registered in the Cayman Islands.

Low, through a statement, said the seizure was part of DoJ’s “global overreach” in the case.

“The DoJ has stayed asset-forfeiture proceedings in this case and has still not taken any steps to prove that any impropriety has occurred.

“It is therefore disappointing that, rather than reflecting on the deeply flawed and politically-motivated allegations, the DoJ is continuing with its pattern of global overreach — all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing,” the statement said, referring to the seizure of the yacht.

The statement said that Low looked forward to the US “court being presented with the actual facts which demonstrate that the DoJ’s case is completely without foundation”.

Yesterday, Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said Malaysia would not claim the luxury yacht because it does not own it.

Malaysiakini reported Apandi saying the government could not claim something that it did not own.

“Why could the government claim something that does not belong to it?” he was quoted as saying by the news portal.