Spanish police impounded a superyacht that belongs to one of Russia’s oligarchs named Viktor Vekselberg on Monday on behalf of U.S. authorities. This marks the first time the US has seized property that belongs to a Russian oligarch since the country had launched an invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Valued at over 90 million euros, the “Tango” was seized in a shipyard on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean, the US Justice Department as well as the Guardia Civil police mentioned in parallel statements.
The Spanish police added that data storage devices and documents were also seized. The Justice Department mentioned that the 78-meter-long superyacht is subject to forfeiture based on violations of the US bank fraud, sanction statutes, and also money laundering.
Prosecutors had also filed seizure warrants in the US District Court for the District of Columbia targeting nearly $625,000 held at nine US financial institutions and associated with parties who had come under sanctions.
A spokesperson for Vekselberg, who spearheads Renova, an aluminium-to-energy conglomerate, could not comment immediately. Vekselberg is not on the list of individuals who are subject to the EU sanctions against Russia.
However, in 2018, he was placed under US sanctions over alleged interference of Russia in the US presidential election of 2016 and was later on included on a list of members belonging to the inner circle of Vladimir Putin targeted in retaliation for Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Per the seizure warrant, Vekselberg was reportedly accused of conspiring to commit bank fraud by structuring financial transactions about the superyacht Tango in a way it obfuscates Vekselberg’s interest in ownership in the vessel, tricking the US banks to process the transactions.
Vekselberg’s US-based assets are frozen and US firms are not allowed to do any business with him or his entities.
The seizure of Tango is the first of its kind under the US task force KleptoCapture, introduced in March for enforcing sanctions on Russians who were connected to the leaders after the country had invaded Ukraine in February.
Vekselberg and Andrew Intrater, who heads the NY-based investment management firm dubbed Columbus Nova, had been in the spotlight in the Mueller probe when the attorney for Stormy Daniels, the adult film star, had published a memo claiming almost $500,000 as hush money was routed via Columbus Nova to a shell firm set up by the former President of the US, Donald Trump’s attorney named Michael Cohen.
Columbus Nova, however, had refused Vekselberg’s role in its payments to Michael Cohen. Monday’s seizure is not the first instance of Spanish authorities seizing a Russian oligarch’s luxury yacht.
Spanish officials have to say they had also seized a vessel valued at more than $140 million, and owned by the CEO of a defense conglomerate in Russia and a close ally of Putin.
Italian and French officials have also seized assets and yachts linked to Russia’s oligarchs.