US wins latest round of legal battle to seize oligarch’s yacht in Fiji

27 May 2022, 07:44

Russian superyacht Amadea
The superyacht Amadea is at the centre of a legal battle in Fiji (Leon Lord/Fiji Sun via AP). Picture: PA

American authorities claim the £257 million Amadea belongs to Russian gold entrepreneur Suleiman Kerimov.

The United States on Friday won the latest round of a legal battle to seize a 325 million US dollar (£257 million) Russian-owned superyacht in Fiji, with the case now appearing headed for the Pacific nation’s top court.

The case has highlighted the thorny legal ground the US finds itself on as it tries to seize assets of Russian oligarchs around the world. Those intentions are welcomed by many governments and citizens who oppose the war in Ukraine, but some actions are raising questions about how far US jurisdiction extends.

Fiji’s Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed an appeal by Feizal Haniff, who represents the company that legally owns the superyacht Amadea.

Haniff had argued the US had no jurisdiction under Fiji’s mutual assistance laws to seize the vessel, at least until a court sorted out who really owned the Amadea.

Haniff said he now plans to take the case to Fiji’s Supreme Court and will apply for a court order to stop US agents sailing the Amadea from Fiji before the appeal is heard.

As part of its ruling, the appeals court ordered that its judgment not take effect for seven days, presumably to give time for any appeals to be filed.

The US argues that its investigation has found that behind various fronts, the Cayman Islands-flagged luxury yacht is really owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, an economist and former Russian politician.

Kerimov made a fortune investing in Russian gold producer Polyus, with Forbes magazine putting his net worth at 16 billion dollars (£12.5 billion). The US first sanctioned him in 2018 after he had been detained in France and accused of money laundering there, sometimes arriving with suitcases stuffed with 20 million euros (£17 million).

Fiji Russia Superyacht
Boat captain Emosi Dawai looks at the superyacht Amadea where it is docked at the Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji (Leon Lord/Fiji Sun via AP)

The FBI linked the Amadea to the Kerimov family through their alleged use of code names while aboard and the purchase of items like a pizza oven and a spa bed. The ship became a target of Task Force KleptoCapture, launched in March to seize Russian oligarchs’ assets to pressure Russia to end the war.

The 106-metre (348-foot) long vessel, about the length of a football field, features a live lobster tank, a hand-painted piano, a swimming pool and and a large helipad.

Haniff, who represents paper owner Millemarin Investments, argues the owner is another wealthy Russian who does not face sanctions, Eduard Khudainatov. He is the former chairman and chief executive of Rosneft, the state-controlled Russian oil and gas company.

The US acknowledges that paperwork appears to show Khudainatov is the owner but say he is also the paper owner of a second and even larger superyacht, the Scheherazade, which has been linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The US question whether Khudainatov could really afford two superyachts worth a total of more than one billion US dollars (£792 million).

“The fact that Khudainatov is being held out as the owner of two of the largest superyachts on record, both linked to sanctioned individuals, suggests that Khudainatov is being used as a clean, unsanctioned straw owner to conceal the true beneficial owners,” the FBI wrote in a court affidavit.

The US claims Kerimov secretly bought the Amadea last year through shell companies. The FBI said a search warrant in Fiji turned up emails showing that Kerimov’s children were aboard the ship this year and that the crew used code names — G0 for Kerimov, G1 for his wife, G2 for his daughter and so on.

The FBI said crew members discuss a possible “upcoming G0 guest trip” noting he wants the quickest jet skis available — so they will need to buy new jet skis.

In his appeal, Haniff argues the US case is based on hearsay and rumours spread by unnamed crew members, and there is no evidence that Khudainatov could not afford an investment in two superyachts.

The yacht remains berthed at Lautoka harbor in the heart of Fiji’s sugar cane region.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Police say that the suspect, 22, had mental health problems

Man charged with murder over Copenhagen shooting

Spanish military jets diverted the Menorca-bound easyJet flight for security checks.

Dramatic moment easyJet flight intercepted by fighter jets over 'hoax bomb threat'

Jake McLean (centre) was reportedly killed in the crash, whilst Yazmin Oukhellou (insert) was injured

Lauren Goodger's ex Jake McLean dies in car crash with TOWIE star Yazmin Oukhellou injured

A piece of glacier broke away on the Marmolada mountain

Six dead after chunk of glacier breaks off and slams into hikers on Italian mountain

Several people have been killed in a shooting in a Copenhagen shopping centre

Chilling video shows suspected Copenhagen gunman brandishing rifle before 3 were killed

Residents in a number of Sydney suburbs were ordered to evacuate

Thousands flee their homes as flooding hits Sydney

A woman died after losing an arm and a leg in a shark attack off the coast of Hurghada, Egypt

Second woman killed by shark off Egypt's red sea coast

Oscar Pistorius has met with the father of Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius meets victim Reeva Steenkamp's father in a bid for parole

North Korea has blamed its Covid outbreak on 'alien things' and balloons coming from South Korea.

North Korea blames Covid outbreak on 'alien things' and balloons from South

Exclusive
Boris Johnson said Putin does not have to give up power for there to be peace in Ukraine

Putin's made more than 30 nuke threats during Ukraine invasion, Boris tells LBC

Russian President Vladimir Putin has hit back at western leaders for their lack of "machismo" and said it would be ‘disgusting’ to see Boris Johnson topless.

Putin mocks G7 leaders' lack of 'machismo' and says PM would look 'disgusting' topless

Ukraine has retaken Snake Island after Moscow's troops abandoned the strategic outpost in what Russia's Defence Ministry has described as a 'goodwill gesture'.

'Kaboom!' Ukraine celebrates Putin's humiliation as Russia retreats from Snake Island

President Joe Biden listens as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks

Ketanji Brown Jackson to be sworn in as US Supreme Court justice

An investigator works outside the Bataclan concert hall (Christophe Ena/PA)

Life without parole for surviving extremist who carried out Paris attacks

A shark is seen swimming across a sand bar (Phil Marcelo/AP)

Great white sharks head to Cape Cod as busy tourist season gets under way

Police outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris (Catherine Wylie/PA)

Men convicted of involvement in 2015 terror attacks in Paris