Fijian officials haveyacht worth more than $300 million, the U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday.
Two days earlier, a Fiji court authorized a U.S. warrant for the seizure of the ship, the Amadea, which American authorities say is owned by billionaire oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, who built his fortune in gold mining. Kerimov was sanctioned in March by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union in response to the Russian . The Justice Department said in a press release that Fijian law enforcement executed the seizure of the Cayman-Islands flagged vessel Thursday.
“There is no hiding place for the assets of criminals who enable the Russian regime,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in the press release.
The court’s ruling came despite the objections of a lawyer for Millemarin Investments, the company the 348-foot ship is registered to, who said it’s not owned by Kerimov. Instead, he argued in court that corporate paperwork traces the Cayman Islands-flagged ship’s ownership to Eduard Khudainatov, a former executive at Russia’s state-owned Rosneft oil company who has not been sanctioned.
Khudainatov has been tied to another even larger yacht that is the focus of intense international speculation and investigation in Italy. Local media there have said the $700 million Scheherazade — one of the world’s largest yachts, which U.S. officials reportedly suspect— is registered to him.
Kerimov and Khudainatov could not be reached for comment. The company appeal Tuesday’s decision and Fiji’s court was expected to rule on the appeal Friday. It is not clear why authorities moved to seize the Amadea before that ruling was made.
The office of Fiji’s top prosecutor, which handled the case, could not be reached for comment.
The Amadea berthed in Fiji on April 13, according to local reports and the maritime analytics website Marine Traffic. That day, a federal judge approved a warrant for the ship to be seized and on April 19, Fiji’s top prosecutor moved to prevent the ship from leaving.
The warrant claims the yacht had traveled “from the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, to Mexico, then to Fiji,” a route U.S. officials believed meant Kerimov may have been “making plans for the Amadea to travel to Russia in an effort to avoid U.S. efforts to seize the vessel.”
On April 4, the agency announced that Spanish authorities had assisted it in seizing another Russian yacht, the $90 million Tango, which was owned by Viktor Vekselberg, the owner of the Russian conglomerate Renova Group.
Legislation passed by the House of Representatives on April 27 would allow the U.S. to sell the yacht and other properties worth more than $2 million seized fromin order to fund the Ukrainian war effort. President Joe Biden supports the bill, which has yet to pass the Senate.
“We’re going to seize their yachts, their luxury homes and other ill-begotten gains,” Biden said on April 28 at the White House.