Home Global Fiji Says U.S. Can Seize Russian Superyacht But Not Right Away

Fiji Says U.S. Can Seize Russian Superyacht But Not Right Away

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Fiji Says U.S. Can Seize Russian Superyacht But Not Right Away

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A judge in Fiji has ruled that U.S. authorities can seize a Russian-owned superyacht — but has put a hold on his order until at least Friday while defense lawyers mount a challenge.

The yacht Amadea — worth $325 million — had earlier been stopped from leaving the South Pacific nation because of its links to Russia. This order is in effect, and will prevent the United States from taking Amadea to Hawaii or anywhere else.

It is unclear which Russian oligarch owns Amadea. Only one person faces sanctions. Questions remain about whether the U.S. has jurisdiction over Fiji.

Suva Supreme Court Justice Deepthi Amaratunga granted Tuesday an order that allowed the U.S. permission to seize superyacht. The warrant had been filed by the U.S. earlier. The judge also granted a break for defense attorneys to prepare their case. The judge will make his next decision on Friday. He will determine whether or not to keep the yacht from being seized until a formal appeal is made by defense lawyers.

The Russian-owned superyacht Amadea is seen docked at the Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji, on April 15. A judge on Tuesday ruled that U.S. authorities can seize the vessel.
The Russian-owned superyacht Amadea is seen docked at the Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji, on April 15. On Tuesday, a judge ruled the U.S. can take over the vessel.

via Associated Press

The U.S. Justice Department in March announced the creation of a team of federal agents and prosecutors to pursue wealthy Russians or those aiding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The team, called Task Force KleptoCapture, was set up to seize assets belonging to oligarchs with the aim of pressuring Russia to end the war. The U.S. believes that Suleiman Kerimov is the true owner of superyacht Amadea. The economist and former Russian politician was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018 for alleged money laundering and has faced further sanctions from Canada, Europe, Britain and other nations after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Kerimov made a fortune investing in Russian gold producer Polyus, with Forbes magazine putting his net worth at $14.5 billion. But defense lawyers say Eduard Khudainatov is the true owner. He was the ex-chairman and chief executive at Rosneft (the state-controlled Russian oil & gas company). Khudainatov does not currently appear to be facing any sanctions. This is unlike other oligarchs or people who are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, which have all been sanctioned ever since the start of World War II.

Due to the trail of trusts or shell companies, it is hard to determine the true ownership of Amadea. The superyacht has been registered in Cayman islands and is owned by Millemarin Investments Ltd. (also based in Cayman Island).

Defense attorneys have claimed that Millemarin Investments Ltd. owns the vessel. They also claim that they are linked to Khudainatov, the beneficial owner. U.S. authorities claim that Kerimov is the true owner behind the many fronts.

On April 19, after the yacht had sailed into Fiji from Mexico, the High Court in Suva ordered that the Amadea not leave Fiji until the merits of the U.S. warrant to seize the vessel were determined. The court ordered Fijian authorities to modify an initial summons that only named Kerimov to include Millemarin Investments Ltd. in the second respondent section of the case.

For now, the yacht continues to sit in a Fijian harbor with its crew of about 25 rotating on and off the vessel, while a police officer remains on board to ensure it stays put.

According to Boat International, the Amadea is 106 meters long and was built in 2017. It features a stainless steel albatross that extends off the bow and weighs more than 5 tons, a live lobster tank in the galley, a 10-meter (33-foot) pool, a hand-painted Pleyel piano and a large helipad.

The U.S. Embassy in Suva earlier said in a statement that the U.S. was acting with allies and partners around the world to impose costs on Russia because of its “war of choice.”

“We continue to ratchet up the pressure on Putin’s oligarchs and we are working with allies and partners to go after corrupt gains from some of the individuals closest to Putin, no matter where they are held around the world,” the embassy said.

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