Indonesia seizes yacht wanted by US in probe of Malaysian fund

Indonesian officials prepare to board the luxury yacht ‘Equanimity’, reportedly worth some 250 million USD and owned by Jho Low, a former unofficial adviser to the Malaysian fund 1MDB, at Benoa Bay in Bali. A luxury yacht sought by US authorities was seized off the Indonesian tourist island of Bali, with the vessel reportedly linked to a corruption scandal at Malaysia’s state investment fund. (AFP)
Updated 28 February 2018

Indonesia seizes yacht wanted by US in probe of Malaysian fund

JAKARTA: Indonesia has seized a luxury yacht on the tourist island of Bali that is wanted by US authorities as part of a probe into alleged multibillion-dollar corruption at Malaysian state investment fund 1MBD.
Metro TV on Wednesday showed local police and what it identified as FBI officers on board the sleek 92-meter (300 foot) vessel, Equanimity, moored off Bali.
In June, the US Justice Department filed a civil case seeking recovery of $540 million in assets, including the yacht, that it says were stolen from 1MDB, a fund set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak that was intended to promote economic development. Overall, the Justice Department says more than $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund.
Agung Setya, director of economic crimes at Indonesia’s national police, told Metro TV that local authorities began working with US authorities a week ago in relation to the vessel. He said it was located on Tuesday in waters off the island of Lombok, which neighbors Bali, and then shifted to Bali’s Tanjung Benoa waters.
“We have legal confirmation that this asset is the result of a crime,” he said. “Our law stipulates that anyone who hides an asset resulting from the proceeds of crime is committing a money-laundering crime.”
Setya said the police had secured a court order to seize Equanimity and are questioning its 34 crew. He said the yacht is worth about $250 million.
The Justice Department alleges the yacht was bought by Jho Low, an associate of Najib who had no formal role at 1MBD but considerable influence over the organization, for his personal use. It was among the more than $400 million that the department accuses Low of stealing himself.
Najib was embroiled in the scandal when it emerged that nearly $1 billion had passed through his personal bank accounts. He and the fund deny any wrongdoing.
Yacht chartering sites say Equanimity has an Asian-themed interior, a swimming pool, movie theater, helicopter landing pad and other luxury amenities.

Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

Updated 15 November 2019

Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

  • Others have also reduced headcount amid economic downturn and property market weakness

DUBAI: HSBC Holdings has laid off about 40 bankers in the UAE and Emirates NBD is cutting around 100 jobs, as banks in the Arab world’s second-biggest economy reduce costs.

The cuts come amid weak economic growth, especially in Dubai, which is suffering from a property downturn.

HSBC’s redundancies came after the London-based bank reported a sharp fall in earnings and warned of a costly restructuring, as interim CEO Noel Quinn seeks to tackle its problems head-on.

HSBC has about 3,000 staff in the UAE, part of a nearly 10,000-strong workforce in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

The cuts at Dubai’s largest lender Emirates NBD came in consumer sales and liabilities, one source said, while a second played down the significance of the move.

HSBC and Emirates NBD declined to comment.

“The cuts are part of cost cutting and rationalizing to drive efficiencies in a challenging market,” the second source said.

Other banks have also reduced staff this year. UAE central bank data shows local banks laid off 446 people in the 12 months until the end of September. Foreign banks added staff in the same period.

Staff at local banks account for over 80 percent of the 35,518 banking employees in the country.

The merger between Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Union Commercial Bank and Al Hilal Bank saw hundreds of redundancies.

Commercial Bank International (CBI) said it would offer voluntary retirement to employees in September, which sources said saw over 100 departures. Standard Chartered, too, cut over 100 jobs in the UAE in September.

Rating agency Fitch warned in September a weakening property market would put more pressure on the UAE’s banking sector.