AP and Reuters

US says it wants forfeiture of billionaire Russian oligarch“s $300 mln superyacht


Part of a Hawaii themed cruise ship is seen near the Russian-owned super yacht Amadea, which was seized in Fiji by American law enforcement, while it is docked in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. June 17, 2022. REUTERS/Marco Garcia/File Photo

The United States on Monday sought the forfeiture of a $300 million superyacht it says is controlled by billionaire Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, who is under U.S. sanctions.

Authorities in Fiji seized the 348-foot (106-meter) Amadea yacht pursuant to a U.S. warrant in May 2022 as Washington ramped up sanctions enforcement against people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, to pressure Moscow to halt its war against Ukraine.

Monday’s complaint, filed in federal court in Manhattan, kicks off a potentially long judicial process in which the United States would seek ownership of the yacht, which is docked in San Diego, and then likely auction it and transfer proceeds to Ukraine.

Kerimov and his family are worth $10.7 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

He amassed much of his wealth through a stake in Russian gold producer Polyus. Kerimov was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2014 and 2018 in response to Russia’s activities in Syria and Ukraine. Those sanctions barred Kerimov from accessing the U.S. financial system.

Polyus (PLZL.MM) was sanctioned in May 2023. The company said the sanctions were unfounded.

In Monday’s complaint, the U.S. Department of Justice said Kerimov bought the Amadea in 2021, and then violated U.S. sanctions by making hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance payments through U.S. financial institutions.

The yacht’s owners will have the chance to contest that claim in court.

Kerimov could not immediately be reached for comment.

Lawyers for the Amadea’s owner, Millemarin Investments, told a Fiji court last year that the Amadea was owned not by Kerimov but by former Rosneft chief Eduard Khudainatov, a Russian oligarch who has not been sanctioned.

Khudainatov is not named in Monday’s complaint.

U.S. prosecutors said a Sept. 14, 2021, transaction transferring ownership of the Amadea from Millemarin to a newly incorporated company, Errigan Marine, was designed to make it appear that Evgeny Kochman, the president of sanctioned yacht broker Imperial Yachts, owned the yacht.

Prosecutors said Kochman was, in fact, only a “straw owner.”

A spokesman for Khudainatov said in a statement on Monday that the vessel was “unlawfully seized” by the DOJ.

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