A judge in Fiji provisionally ruled in favor of U.S. officials seeking to seize a superyacht docked in the country that they suspect is owned by sanctioned Russian billionaire and politician Suleiman Kerimov, part of a wider Western effort to seize property linked to people with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime.
Suva High Court Judge Deepthi Amaratunga on Tuesday granted an order allowing the U.S. to seize the superyacht known as Amadea, but has put a hold on it until Friday to allow the defense lawyers to challenge the ruling, the Associated Press reported.
U.S. authorities argue that behind a web of shell companies and fronts, the real owner of the yacht is Kerimov, a Russian Senator who made his fortune by betting on Russia’s largest gold producer, Polyus.
But defense lawyers have claimed that the real owner of the vessel is Eduard Khudainatov, the former CEO of Russian oil and gas giant Rosneft, whose name does not appear on any current sanctions list.
The seizure effort is being led by Task Force KleptoCapture which was setup by the Justice Department in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“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 a statement. The embassy added that it was working to impose costs on Russia because of its “war of choice.”
Last month, Fiji’s top public prosecutor Christopher Pryde filed an application to the High Court seeking a restraining order to prevent the vessel from leaving Fiji. Amadea had sailed into Fiji from Mexico and the judge ordered that it would not be allowed to leave the country until the U.S. warrant to seize the vehicle was fully examined. Kerimov and his son, Said, who is Polyus Gold’s majority shareholder, have been targeted by Western sanctions since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In Europe, officials have managed to seize luxury yachts owned by several Russian billionaires with close ties to Putin’s regime, including oil baron Igor Sechin and mining magnate Alisher Usmanov.
$15.6 billion. That is the current net worth of Suleiman Kerimov and his family, according to Forbes’ real time tracker.
Fiji says US can seize Russian superyacht but not right away (Associated Press)
U.S. Officials Trying To Seize Superyacht In Fiji Allegedly Linked To Russian Gold Magnate Kerimov, Report Says (Forbes)