New Zealand is a country in New Zealand. The US won a judicial battle in Fiji on Tuesday to seize a Russian-owned superyacht, and took charge of the $325 million vessel right away, sailing it away from the South Pacific nation.
The court decision was a significant triumph for the United States, which has run into roadblocks in its efforts to recover the assets of Russian billionaires around the world. While many people who oppose the war in Ukraine applaud these initiatives, some of them have pushed the boundaries of American authority abroad.
The Supreme Court of Fiji removed a stay order that had blocked the United States from seizing the superyacht Amadea.
According to Chief Justice Kamal Kumar, the possibilities of defense counsel filing an appeal that the Supreme Court would hear were “zero to extremely small” based on the evidence.
Kumar agreed that keeping the superyacht berthed in Lautoka harbor in Fiji was “costing the Fijian government dearly.”
“The fact that US authorities have agreed to pay the Fijian government’s costs is completely irrelevant,” the judge said. “The Amadea sailed into Fiji seas without an authorization and most likely to avoid prosecution by the United States of America,” he claimed.
The US removed the motorized vessel within an hour or two following the court’s decision, probably to avoid any further legal action against the yacht.
The superyacht had set sail towards the US under a new flag, according to Anthony Coley, a spokesperson for the US Justice Department, who also expressed gratitude to Fijian police and prosecutors “whose perseverance and dedication to the rule of law made this action possible.”
The Justice Department said in early May that the Amadea had been seized in Fiji, but that announcement was premature when lawyers filed an appeal.
The Amadea, which the FBI has linked to Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, was not immediately known where the US intended to transport it.
Unresolved questions of money laundering and ownership of the Amadea, according to Fiji’s Director of Public Prosecutions Christopher Pryde, must be decided in the United States.
Pryde stated, “The decision recognizes Fiji’s commitment to respecting international mutual assistance requests and Fiji’s international commitments.”
The FBI linked the Amadea to the Kerimov family in court records, citing their alleged use of code names on board and the purchase of goods like a pizza oven and a spa bed. Task Force KleptoCapture, which was created in March to take the assets of Russian oligarchs in order to put pressure on Russia to halt the war, targeted the ship.
A live lobster tank, a hand-painted piano, a swimming pool, and a big helipad are among the attractions of the 106-meter (348-foot) long vessel.
The paper’s owner, Millemarin Investments, was defended by lawyer Feizal Haniff, who contended that the owner was another wealthy Russian who, unlike Kerimov, was not subject to sanctions.
The US confirmed that Eduard Khudainatov looked to be the owner on the paperwork, but added that he was also the paper owner of a second, larger superyacht, the Scheherazade, which has been linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The United States questioned whether Khudainatov could truly afford two $1 billion superyachts.
In a court affidavit, the FBI stated, “The fact that Khudainatov is being held up as the owner of two of the largest superyachts on record, both tied to sanctioned individuals, shows that Khudainatov is being employed as a clean, unsanctioned straw owner to mask the genuine beneficial owners.”
According to court filings, the Amadea turned off its transponder shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine and traveled from the Caribbean to Mexico via the Panama Canal, bringing over $100,000 in cash with her. It traveled hundreds of miles across the Pacific Ocean to Fiji after that.
The Justice Department said it didn’t believe papers indicating the Amadea was on its way to the Philippines, claiming it was instead heading to Vladivostok or another Russian port.
A text message on a crew member’s phone said, “We’re not heading to Russia,” followed by a “shush” emoji, according to the department.
Kerimov allegedly purchased the Cayman Islands-flagged Amadea last year through multiple shell companies, according to the US. According to the FBI, emails discovered during a search request in Fiji revealed that Kerimov’s children were on board this year and that the crew used code names such as G0 for Kerimov, G1 for his wife, G2 for his daughter, and so on.
Kerimov amassed a fortune through investing in Russian gold manufacturer Polyus, according to Forbes magazine. His net worth is estimated to be $14.5 billion. After being imprisoned in France and accused of money laundering, he was sanctioned by the US in 2018. He was suspected of arriving with luggage loaded with 20 million euros.
Khudainatov is the former chairman and CEO of Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil and gas firm.