The US on Monday reportedly sought the forfeiture of a superyacht worth $300 million that it says was controlled by a billionaire oligarch from Russia by the name of Suleiman Kerimov, who has come under U.S. sanctions.
Authorities based in Fiji seized the 348-foot Amadea yacht under a U.S. warrant in May 2022 as Washington reportedly ramped up the sanctions enforcement against the people close to Russia’s Vladimir Putin to pressure Moscow to halt its war on Ukraine.
Monday’s complaint, filed at the federal court based in Manhattan, reportedly kicks off a long judicial procedure in which the US would be seeking the ownership of the yacht, which has been docked in San Diego, and then auction it and transfer the proceeds toward Ukraine.
Kerimov and family are worth about $10.7 billion, per the Forbes magazine findings.
He also amassed the majority of his wealth via a stake in the Russian gold producer Polyus. Further, Kerimov was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department back in 2014 and 2018 as a response to Russia’s activities based in Ukraine and Syria. The sanctions stopped Kerimov from accessing the US-based financial system.
Polyus got sanctioned in May this year. The firm said that the sanctions were understood to be unfounded.
In the complaint filed on Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice mentioned that Kerimov purchased the Amadea back in 2021 and violated the U.S. sanctions by making over $1 million in terms of maintenance payments via top U.S. financial institutions.
The owners of the yacht will have the opportunity to contest the claim at the court.
Lawyers associated with Millemarin Investments, a firm that says is the owner of Amadea, informed a Fiji court in 2022 that the Amadea was owned not by Kerimov but instead by the former Rosneft chief named Eduard Khudainatov. The latter is a Russia-based oligarch who hasn’t been sanctioned.
Khudainatov was not mentioned in the complaint filed on Monday.
The U.S. prosecutors added that a 14 September 2021 transaction that transferred the ownership of the Amadea from Millemarin to a newly incorporated firm named Errigan Marine was designed to make it look like Evgeny Kochman, the president of the sanctioned yacht broker named Imperial Yachts was the real owner.
Prosecutors reported that Kochman was just a “straw owner.”
In one statement, Imperial Yachts stated that it disputed the DOJ’s allegations and that neither the firm nor Kochman was engaged in illegal acts.
Khudainatov sued the US on Monday in the federal court based in San Diego for releasing the yacht, per a copy of the complaint shared by Adam Ford, his lawyer. Reuters was unable to immediately find the legal documents online.
References: NBC News, Reuters
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