Fiji seizes Russian oligarch's superyacht, after US order

The superyacht that American authorities say is owned by a Russian oligarch previously sanctioned for alleged money laundering has been seized by law enforcement in Fiji, the U.S. Justice Department announced

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Friday, May 06, 2022, 04:26 PM IST
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The superyacht Amadea is docked at the Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji, on April 15 2022 | AP

Fijian authorities seized a $300 million superyacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, the US Department of Justice announced Thursday.

The move to confiscate the nearly 350-foot motor yacht Amadea in Lautoka, Fiji, comes as Western governments intensify efforts to track, identify and seize assets around the globe belonging to sanctioned Russians with ties to the Kremlin.

A court in Fiji ruled on Tuesday that the US could seize the Russian-owned super-yacht, weeks after it arrived and was impounded by police.

“The Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to hold accountable those who facilitate the death and destruction we are witnessing in Ukraine,” US Attorney General Merrick B Garland said in a statement announcing the yacht’s seizure.

American officials say the 348-foot vessel belongs to Suleiman Kerimov, an economist and former Russian politician who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2018 and has faced further censure from Canada, Europe, Britain and other nations after Russia invaded Ukraine.

The US Treasury Department had previously designated Kerimov “as part of a group of Russian oligarchs who profit from the Russian government through corruption and its malign activity around the globe”, the Justice Department said.

Kerimov made a fortune investing in Russian gold producer Polyus, with Forbes magazine putting his net worth at $14.5 billion.

Defense lawyers had claimed the yacht actually belonged to another Russian oligarch.

In an application in support of the search warrant, an FBI agent wrote that there was probable cause to believe that Kerimov had owned the Amadea since 2021. The vessel, which is flagged in the Cayman Islands, had turned off its automated information system on Feb. 24, the day Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

The Justice Department said the seizure was coordinated by its KleptoCapture task force, which was created in March to seize assets belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarchs. In April, the Justice Department seized a 254-foot yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Last month, German authorities said they had seized the world’s largest superyacht after official confirmation that the vessel had links to Russian billionaire and business tycoon Alisher Usmanov.

The yacht, named Dilbar, after Usmanov’s mother, extends over 500 feet and is equipped with two helipads and the largest indoor swimming pool ever installed on a private vessel. The US Treasury Department estimates that Usmanov’s yacht is worth approximately $735 million.

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