EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Sitpah Selvaratnam the principal lawyer in legal battle of superyacht ‘Equanimity’
Photo courtesy of The Straits Times
At Superyacht Investor London 2019 we shall be welcoming leading Malaysian lawyer Sitpah Selvaratnam.
Selvaratnam is the principal lawyer representing the Malaysian government in its legal battle over the ownership and sale of superyacht Equanimity. And she’ll be a panellist discussing the potentially nagging question of repossessions.
Equanimity has been at the centre of a protracted larger fraud and money-laundering investigation into a former Malaysian official Jho Low. She is currently for sale with a guide price of $130 million after no buyer was found during a 30-day sealed-bid auction in November last year.
Low is alleged to have misappropriated millions of dollars from the government fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and to have been living an “exuberant” lifestyle well above his means. His whereabouts are currently unknown as Malaysian authorities continue their efforts to find him.
Ahead of SYI 2019 we spoke with Selvaratnam about the sale of Equanimity and whether a buyer will be found before the phase completion date of 31st March 2019.
Are you and your clients disappointed that the yacht was not sold in the first phase?
A little – they would have liked to see her sail out of Malaysia before the close of 2018, but all involved understood that the Judicial process in its compulsory stage of sealed bidding would take some getting used to by the yachting industry. And the 30-day time limit may not have drawn out all or the best interests.
Do you think potential buyers have been put off by the chequered past of Equanimity? Are they unconvinced that the yacht is free of all encumbrances? Is the yacht tarnished?
Not the serious high-end buyers who understand that the yacht could change her name rapidly after purchase and would be free of encumbrance because this is a judicial sale. In fact, the title gained this way, from a judicial sale, is far “cleaner’ than from a direct sale where maritime liens would follow the vessel despite the direct non-judicial sale.
Did you receive ‘serious’ bids?
Not serious enough to ensure a sale.
Are you confident that she will sell?
Absolutely. She is solid, well looked after by 20 professional yachting crew members throughout the arrest. But we will not let her go for a steal. We have now moved to the second phase of the judicial sale, and the Winterbothams market price evaluation of USD 130 million is released as a guide price. Direct negotiations are now possible. This is a more familiar pattern for the yachting industry.
What would be the procedure be were Equanimity not to be sold by the 31st March?
I don’t believe we need to worry about that just now.
Superyacht Investor London 2019 takes place at the Landmark Hotel on January 30 and 31.
Equanimity is being sold through broker Burgess Yachts