US announces seizure of superyacht in Fiji owned by Russian oligarch

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The superyacht Amadea docked at the Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji, on April 15 (AP)
The superyacht Amadea docked at the Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji, on April 15 (AP)

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

A judge in Fiji earlier this week permitted US authorities to seize the yacht Amadea - worth 325 million dollars (£263 million) - but also put his order temporarily on hold while defence lawyers mounted a challenge.

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

American officials say the 348-foot vessel belongs to Suleiman Kerimov, an economist and former Russian politician who was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in 2018 and has faced further censure from Canada, Europe, Britain and other nations after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Mr Kerimov made a fortune investing in Russian gold producer Polyus, with Forbes magazine putting his net worth at 14.5 billion dollars (£11.7 billion).

Defence lawyers claimed the yacht belongs to another Russian oligarch.

In an application in support of the search warrant, an FBI agent wrote that there was probable cause to believe that Mr Kerimov has owned the Amadea since 2021.

The vessel, which is flagged in the Cayman Islands, turned off its automated information system on February 24 - the day Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

The Justice Department said the seizure was co-ordinated by its KleptoCapture task force, which was created in March to seize assets belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

In April, the Justice Department seized a 254-foot yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a statement, attorney general Merrick Garland said the latest seizure “should make clear that there is no hiding place for the assets of individuals who violate US laws”.

He added: “And there is no hiding place for the assets of criminals who enable the Russian regime.”

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

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