Russian oligarch's yacht seized in Fiji on US request

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Fiji authorities have seized sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov's $300 million yacht in line with a US warrant, the US Justice Department says.

The 348-foot (106-metre) Amadea was berthed in Lautoka, Fiji in the South Pacific when the island state's law enforcement took control of it.

The US Justice Department had requested the vessel, which sailed to Fiji in mid-April, be held for violating sanctions and for alleged ties to corruption.

The Amadea is worth $325 million and has a helipad, pool, jacuzzi and "winter garden" on the sun deck, according to tracking website superyachtfan.com.

"The Amadea is subject to forfeiture based on probable cause of violations of US law, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, money laundering and conspiracy," the department said in a statement Thursday.

Kerimov is among a group of Russian oligarchs "who profit from the Russian government through corruption and its malign activity around the globe, including the occupation of Crimea," it said.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

Kerimov, who has made a fortune as part-owner of major Russian energy and financial companies including Gazprom and Sberbank, is also an official of the Russian government and a member of the Russian Federation Counsel, it said.

- 'No hiding place' -

"There is no hiding place for the assets of criminals who enable the Russian regime," US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

"The Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to hold accountable those who facilitate the death and destruction we are witnessing in Ukraine," Garland added.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the department had its eyes "on every yacht purchased with dirty money".

"This yacht seizure should tell every corrupt Russian oligarch that they cannot hide -- not even in the remotest part of the world," she said.

"We will use every means of enforcing the sanctions imposed in response to Russia's unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine."

An application by a company registered as the owner of the Amadea, Millemarin Investment, for an interim stay of execution of the court order approving the seizure, pending an appeal, was denied Friday by the Fiji High Court.

Fiji news media reported the superyacht is expected to be moved to the United States within days.

In a publicly released copy of the US warrant, the section listing various reasons to believe Kerimov is the true beneficial owner of the yacht was partly blacked out.

It said the Amadea's ownership was transferred to Millemarin Investment in August 2021.

The US warrant said Fiji's authorities searched the vessel last month and found "numerous" financial documents related to the Amadea. Details of the transactions were blacked out.

The Amadea's official paperwork said its next destination after Fiji was the Philippines.

"However, there is reason to believe that its intended destination is, in fact, Vladivostok or other waters in Russian territory," the warrant said.

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