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Russian Superyacht Forced to Leave Fiji on US Warrant

Russian Superyacht Forced to Leave Fiji on US Warrant
Source: BBC

After a judge upheld an FBI warrant, a Russian-owned superyacht that reportedly traveled to Fiji to avoid confiscation was transported to the United States.

The 106m (350ft) Amadea – tied to sanctioned oligarch Suleiman Kerimov – has been tracked by US police for months.

When the yacht arrived in Fiji in April, agents boarded it, but the boat’s owner filed a court battle to prevent the seizure.

They said the warrant was illegal under local law on the Pacific island.

However, Fiji’s Supreme Court disregarded that argument on Tuesday and ordered the boat’s departure, citing the expense to the local government of the big yacht’s mooring in Lautoka’s port.

In its application, US officials claimed that maintaining the $300 million (£238 million) warship would cost between $25 and $30 million each year.

The yacht should be removed for the public’s welfare, according to Chief Justice Kamal Kumar.

He discovered the ship had entered Fijian seas “without any authorization and most likely to avoid punishment by the US.”

The legal team for the yacht’s registered owners, Millemarin Investments, had contended that the boat did not belong to Mr Kerimov and instead belonged to a different Russian billionaire who was not subject to sanctions.

However, US officials claim that Mr Kerimov still maintains a financial interest in the yacht.

The boat also allegedly sought to avoid discovery “nearly immediately” after the conflict began by turning off its automatic tracking system, according to the FBI.

Mr Kerimov was originally sanctioned by US authorities in 2018 on a series of money-laundering offences. Since then, several countries have imposed sanctions on Russia, notably the EU group in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The court verdict on Tuesday, according to Fiji’s Director of Public Prosecutions, underlined his country’s commitment to foreign help requests and international law.

“The court recognized the US warrant’s legitimacy and agreed that money laundering and ownership problems should be handled in the court of original jurisdiction,” Christopher Pryde stated.

Following the February invasion of Ukraine, Western authorities have increased their scrutiny of the assets of dozens of Russian billionaires.