Judicial Rififi around the seizure of the superyacht of a well-known Russian oligarch on the Côte d’Azur

Judicial Rififi around the seizure of the superyacht of a well-known Russian oligarch on the Côte d'Azur

A court in Fiji has suspended the seizure of a superyacht suspected of belonging to Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, targeted by American sanctions linked to the war in Ukraine, the prosecution said on Monday.

The yacht Amadea, worth an estimated $325 million, remains in the custody of Fijian police and is banned from leaving the country, the source said.

Moored in Lautoka, in western Fiji, since mid-April, the Amadea has been immobilized by local authorities since the issuance of a US seizure warrant.

Last week, a local court authorized the seizure. But on Friday, the Court of Appeals “pronounced the provisional suspension” of his execution, a spokeswoman for the prosecution told AFP on Monday.

It was a company officially registered as the owner of the yacht, Millemarin Investment, which challenged the seizure before the Fijian courts.

A further court hearing is scheduled for Thursday, she said.

However, several specialized sites indicate that the real owner of the boat is the Russian deputy and businessman Suleiman Kerimov, which is also confirmed by the American authorities.

Mr. Kerimov is part of a group of oligarchs “who profit from the Russian government through corruption and its malign activities around the world, including the occupation of Crimea”the US Department of Justice said last week.

The Amadea is 107 meters tall, has a swimming pool, jacuzzi, helipad and a “winter Garden” on deck, according to the specialist site superyachtfan.com.

Several specialized sites indicate that Kerimov is the owner, but this could not be independently confirmed by AFP. A company registered as the owner of the boat, Millemarin Investment, appealed the seizure to the High Court of Fiji. According to the prosecutor before this court, a decision was expected on Friday.

In mid-April, the superyacht found itself embroiled in a “criminal case”. According to police commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho, the luxury yacht had left from Mexico or South America and had docked in Lautoka, Fiji, on Tuesday, without having obtained the green light from customs officials.

A request for assistance in a criminal case has been made to the Fijian government by a “foreign counterpart”, he had said, without specifying from whom this request came or its exact nature.

Drug trafficking, weapons and money laundering?

Police were investigating whether there had been any breaches of customs or immigration rules, or whether the yacht was involved in possible drugs, weapons or money laundering cases.

“Our investigations will cover all of these areas. If these things are to be declared, they must be. There are clear and specific guidelines that arriving yachts must comply with.”

Spain had already seized in April, at the request of the United States, a superyacht worth 90 million dollars, belonging to Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, an ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Washington announced in March the creation of a cell dedicated to the prosecution of “corrupt Russian oligarchs” and of all those who would violate the sanctions adopted by Washington against Moscow.

Since then, Americans have “sanctioned and detained ships and planes worth more than $1 billion, as well as freezing hundreds of millions of dollars in Russian elite assets in US accounts”according to the White House.

President Joe Biden hopes to be able to liquidate these assets and use the money to compensate for the damage Ukraine has suffered.