US tries to sanction oligarch’s yacht, lawyers say he doesn’t own it

  • The United States is trying to seize a yacht it claims belongs to sanctioned oligarch Suleyman Kerimov.
  • But Millemarin Investments, its registered owner, says the beneficial owner is Eduard Khudainatov.
  • Kerimov is believed to be close to the Kremlin and faces money laundering charges.

The United States is trying to seize a yacht in Fiji that it says belongs to a sanctioned Russian oligarch, but defense lawyers say it belongs to someone else.

US authorities claim the superyacht, the Amadea, is beneficially owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleyman Kerimov, the spokesperson for Fiji’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) told Insider. Kerimov is believed to be close to the Kremlin and faces charges of money laundering and non-payment of taxes.

But defense lawyers claimed in court that the vessel belonged to Eduard Khudainatov, former chairman and CEO of Kremlin-controlled energy giant Rosneft, according to an AP report. Khudainatov was not sanctioned.

The Amadea is not allowed to leave Fiji waters under a restraining order granted by the country’s High Court in Suva on April 19, a week after arriving from Mexico.

The Amadea is another example of the difficulties in determining the beneficial owner of a vessel, which may be different from the registered owner. The vessel is registered in the Cayman Islands and is owned by Cayman Islands-based Millemarin Investments, AP reported. Millemarin’s lawyers claimed in court that the company was the legal owner of the vessel and was linked to Khudainatov, the beneficial owner, by AP.

The high court ordered Fijian prosecutors to add Millemarin as a defendant in the case alongside Kerimov, per AP.

“The ultimate question of ownership will likely be decided by the US court if the US warrant is registered,” the DPP spokesperson said, adding that a judge must decide whether the High Court of Fiji can register the US warrant of capture. the ship on May 3.

In addition to the US warrant to seize the vessel, Fijian authorities are investigating allegations of money laundering and possible violations of Fiji’s exclusive economic zone linked to the vessel, according to the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation. Police said the Amadea arrived in Fiji without customs clearance, Reuters previously reported.

Millemarin’s attorneys said there was no evidence the Amadea was the result of criminal proceedings, according to the FBC.

Lawyers for Millemarin, the US Treasury, the US Department of Justice and the US Embassy in Fiji did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Kerimov is part of Putin’s ‘inner circle of oligarchs’

In addition to targeting Russian business, finance and industry, the West has sanctioned Russian elites to pressure President Vladimir Putin to stop his invasion of Ukraine.

Kerimov, a member of the Russian Federation Council, was sanctioned by the EU and the UK on March 15. The EU said Kerimov is “a member of the inner circle of oligarchs” close to Putin. He also said he was among those who met the Russian president in the Kremlin in late February to discuss Western sanctions.

Kerimov had previously been sanctioned by the United States in 2018, which said he had been charged with money laundering in France and failing to pay $432 million in villa taxes.

Kerimov is worth around $14.3 billion, according to Bloomberg estimates. He owns Nafta Moscow, a financial and industrial group in Russia. His family owns a majority stake in Polyus Gold, which claims to be Russia’s largest gold producer.

The Amadea is nearly 350 feet long and can accommodate 16 people in eight cabins. It was built by German yacht builders Lürssen and facilities include a gym, beauty salon, bar and glass lift. It also has an infinity pool, another pool on the owner’s private terrace, a jacuzzi and a helipad.

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