US says superyacht owned by Russian oligarch seized in Fiji

A superyacht that US authorities say is owned by a Russian oligarch previously sanctioned for alleged money laundering has been seized by law enforcement in Fiji, the US Department of Justice said Thursday.

A judge in Fiji earlier in the week allowed US authorities to seize the yacht Amadea – worth $325million – but also temporarily suspended his order while defense lawyers mounted a challenge.

The Department of Justice said authorities in Fiji, acting at the behest of the United States, have now served a search warrant freezing the yacht, which had previously been prevented from leaving the South Pacific nation.

US officials say the 348ft vessel is owned by Suleiman Kerimov, a Russian economist and former politician who was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in 2018 and has been subject to further censorship by Canada, Europe, Britain and other countries after Russia invaded Ukraine.

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

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

In a request supporting the search warrant, an FBI agent wrote that there were probable grounds to believe Kerimov had owned the Amadea since 2021. The ship, which flies the flag of the Cayman Islands, had turned off its automated information system on February 2. On the 24th, the day Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

The Justice Department said the seizure was coordinated by its KleptoCapture task force, established in March to seize assets belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarchs. In April, the Justice Department seized a 254ft yacht in Spain belonging to an oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, who is closely linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the latest seizure “should make it clear that there is no hiding place for the assets of individuals who violate US laws.” And there is no hiding place for the assets of the criminals who allow the Russian regime.

The Department of Justice said the yacht is now in Lautoka, Fiji.

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