A judge on Fiji’s high court has ruled this week that the U.S. can seize a $325 million superyacht owned by a Russian oligarch docked at a port in Lautoka.
A previous order that stopped the U.S. from moving the yacht after filing a warrant will remain in place until at least Friday to allow for the defense to argue the boat is actually owned by a different Russian oligarch not facing sanctions, Suva High Court Justice Deepthi Amaratunga said Tuesday.
Fijian authorities believe the yacht called Amadea, which has been docked there since April 13, belongs to Russian President Vladimir Putin ally Suleiman Kerimov who faces sanctions from the U.S. The yacht, in fact, belongs to Eduard Khudainatov, who isn’t facing sanctions, the defense has argued. Khudainatov is the former chairman and chief executive of Rosneft, the state-controlled Russian oil and gas company.
On Friday, Amaratunga will decide whether to continue the stay on the seizure of the yacht.
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FILE – The superyacht Amadea is docked at the Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji, on April 15 2022. A judge in Fiji has ruled that U.S. authorities can seize the Russian-owned superyacht — but has put a hold on his order until at least Friday, May 6, while defense lawyers mount a challenge. (Leon Lord/Fiji Sun via AP, File)
(Leon Lord/Fiji Sun via AP, File)
Kerimov was first sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018 over alleged money laundering and faced further sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The boat is registered in the Cayman Islands and is owned by Millemarin Investments Ltd., also based in the Cayman Islands. The U.S. argues Kerimov is Amadea’s real owner, but ownership can be difficult to determine because of a shadowy trail of trusts and shell companies.
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L-R: Governor of Dagestan Sergei Melikov, Russian billionaire, businessman and Council of the Federation Member Suleiman Kerimov and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin attend a presentation at the Naryn Kala Castle, on April 14, 2021, in Derbent, Dagestan, Russia.
(Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
Fiji also argued that it shouldn’t have to determine ownership of the vessel since it’s allegedly connected to a U.S. money laundering case, Reuters reported.
After the yacht sailed into Fiji from Mexico without customs clearance local authorities barred it from leaving due to the U.S. warrant.
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“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 U.S. embassy in Suva said.
In March, the Justice Department announced the formation of a team to pursue wealthy Russians or those aiding Vladimir Putin’s efforts. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. government seized a mega yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch with close ties to the Russian president.
France, Italy and Germany all acted to seize similar superyachts in March.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.