US trying to seize Russian billionaire’s superyacht

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US trying to seize Russian billionaire’s superyacht

The US government is trying to seize a superyacht docked in Fiji, which is widely believed to be owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, according to a restraining order application filed by Fijian authorities.

The Amadea yacht is currently restrained from leaving Fijian waters until U.S. authorities finalize their warrant to seize the ship, Fiji s public prosecutor Christopher Pryde said in a statement.

The move comes as Western nations have begun to seize and freeze assets owned by sanctioned Russian individuals with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kerimov has been sanctioned in the U.S. since 2018.

Last week, NBC News confirmed that the billionaire's reported luxury vessel had arrived in Fiji, as part of a wider investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists into how Kerimov and his associates used a maze of corporate structures to obscure his astronomical wealth.

The roughly $325 million yacht arrived in Fiji's Lautoka port from Mexico last week, according to MarineTraffic, a maritime analytics company. Amadea is able to land in the Cayman Islands, according to ship registration filings.

The U.S. embassy said it was cooperating with local authorities in the matter.

The embassy said in a statement to the ICIJ that we are working with allies and partners to go after corrupt gains from some of the people closest to Putin, no matter where they are held around the world.

A yacht agent in Fiji who said he was a representative for Amadea told Reuters last week that the ship's lawyers were contesting Kerimov's ownership of the vessel.

A Department of Justice spokesman wouldn't say anything.

The NBC News investigation looked at major financial records leaks, including the Pandora Papers and the FinCEN Files, to show the difficulties Western governments will have to face in enforcing sanctions against Russian oligarchs like Kerimov.

While rich people around the world use creative tactics to protect their wealth, the documents reveal the exceptional steps Kerimov and his associates have taken in the past and highlight the challenges ahead for authorities trying to stem the flow of money to Putin's inner circle.

Kerimov was hit with additional sanctions from Canada, the U.K. and the E.U. since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. His assets have apparently escaped uncathed.