Over the last few months, the US Justice Department’s Taskforce KleptoCapture has been focused on identifying and seizing luxury superyachts and other multi-million-dollar assets linked to sanctioned Russian oligarchs. More than a dozen famous of these pleasure crafts owned by Russian billionaires have already been impounded ever since impounded at various locations across the globe ever since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine.
While in Lautoka, Fiji. Anish Chand got a closer look inside the Amadea.
One of them is the $325 million Amadea superyacht allegedly owned by Suleiman Kerimov that was confiscated by the US authorities in Fiji last month. After a frenzied legal effort by the Amadea’s owner, the Russian-owned superyacht finally departed from the island nation for the United States after a court in Fiji ordered its removal. While Kerimov’s vessel originally operated under the flag of the Cayman Islands, several pictures of Amadea leaving Fiji with an American flag on the stern emerged on the internet. This makes it the first Russian-owned superyacht to get a new flag after being seized by the US, giving the DOJ complete control over the vessel.
Even the dedicated page on maritime traffic tracking website MartineTraffic for the Amadea has been updated to display the US flag. Contrastingly, all the other major Russian-owned superyachts impounded by various countries still have their original flags as the authorities are still struggling to prove the ownership in most cases. Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov’s $735 million superyacht Dilbar that was seized in Germany in April still has its Cayman Islands flag, while the $580 million Sailing Yach A seized in Italy and the $90 million superyacht Tango confiscated by FBI and Spain authorities also continue to carry their original flags of Bermuda and the Cook islands respectively.
US Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley took to Twitter to announce the major victory. “Today, with authorization from the Fijian High Court and under a new flag, the Amadea set sail for the United States after having been seized as the proceeds of criminal evasion of US sanctions against Russian oligarch Suleyman Kerimov,” he wrote. “The United States is deeply grateful to the Fijian police and prosecutors whose perseverance and dedication to the rule of law made this action possible.”
The Russian gold mining billionaire was sanctioned by the US in 2018 following Russia’s invasion of Crimea and armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, which led to the seizure of Amadea. The 106-meter luxury superyacht was dramatically seized back in Fiji in the first week of May, with agents from the FBI, the US Marshals Service, and the Diplomatic Security Service boarding the ship in an attempt to hurriedly get the superyacht to the US. What ensued was a bitter legal battle initiated by Amadea’s legal owner Millemarin Investment Limited, an unsupportive crew, and other administrative hurdles, which cumulatively stymied the efforts of the US to take control over the vessel.
However, footing the bill for the massive luxury superyacht’s maintenance was proving to be extremely difficult. The captain of the vessel claimed the superyacht required regular upkeep that could cost around $1.1m per month, which is an astronomical figure for a nation with a GDP of $5 billion. The country’s Supreme Court ruled that public interest demands the yacht “sail out of Fiji waters”, as it was “costing the Fijian Government dearly.” The luxury superyacht is currently on its way to an undisclosed location in the US with a claimed arrival on June 16. While the vessel hasn’t broadcasted its live location for the last couple of days, it’s speculated to be on its way to a port on the West Coast of the US. The future of Amadea is uncertain at the moment. The $325 million superyacht might be auctioned off or it might simply languish at a port only to be sent to a scrapyard.