The United States seizes a yacht owned by an oligarch with close ties to Putin

Palma de Mallorca, Spain (AFP) – The US government confiscated a mega yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch with close ties to the Russian president on Monday, the first in a government sanctions initiative to “confiscate and freeze” mega-boats and other expensive boats. The origins of the Russian elites.

The Spanish Civil Guard and US federal agents disembarked on the yacht at Marina Real in the port of Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. Associated Press reporters at the scene saw police entering and exiting the boat on Monday morning.

The Civil Guard said the joint operation to seize the yacht with the Spanish Civil Guard, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security investigations was carried out at the request of US authorities.

A Civil Guard source told The Associated Press that the malfunctioning yacht is Tango, a 78-meter (254-foot) Cook Islands-flagged boat and that Superyachtfan.com, a specialist website that tracks the world’s largest and most exclusive recreational boats, has a value of $120 million. The source was also not authorized to be named in media reports and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The yacht is among the assets linked to Viktor Vekselberg, the billionaire and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate that includes minerals, mining, technology and other assets, according to US Treasury documents. All assets of Vekselberg in the United States have been frozen, and American companies are prohibited from doing business with him and his entities.

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The Civil Guard said in a statement that while Vekselberg was not sanctioned by the European Union, it is the subject of an investigation in the United States for possible tax fraud, money laundering and document fraud specifically to conceal ownership of Tango’s yacht.

The move is the first time the US government has seized an oligarchic yacht since Attorney General Merrick Garland and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen put together a task force known as REPO — short for Russian elites, proxies and oligarchs — in an effort to impose sanctions after the invasion of Russia. Ukraine in late February.

Vekselberg has long had ties to the United States including his once held green card and homes in New York and Connecticut. The Ukrainian-born businessman built his fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era.

Vekselberg was also questioned in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and worked closely with his American cousin, Andrew Interter, who heads New York investment management firm Columbus Nova.

Vekselberg and Intrater were shed light on the Mueller investigation after the attorney for top movie star Stormy Daniels issued a warrant claiming that $500,000 in hush money was funneled via Columbus Nova to a shell company set up by Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Columbus Nova denied that Vekselberg played any role in his payments to Cohen.

Vekselberg and Intrater met Cohen at Trump Tower, one of many meetings between members of Trump’s inner circle and high-ranking Russians during the 2016 campaign and transition.

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The 64-year-old Mughal founded the Renova Group more than three decades ago. The group owns the largest stake in United Rusal, the largest aluminum producer in Russia, among other investments.

Sanctions against Vekselberg were first imposed by the United States in 2018, and again in March of this year, shortly after the start of the invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions have also been imposed on Vekselberg by the UK authorities.

The Civil Guard said the yacht, which sails under the Cook Islands flag and is owned by a company registered in the British Virgin Islands and operated by various communities in Panama, “follows a complex financial and social network to conceal its true ownership.”

She added that agents confiscated documents and computers inside the yacht that will be analyzed to confirm the true identity of the owner of the yacht.

The US Department of Justice has also launched a Sanctions Enforcement Task Force known as KleptoCapture, which also aims to enforce US financial restrictions on Russia and its billionaires, working with the FBI, Treasury and other federal agencies. This task force will also target financial institutions and entities that have helped oligarchs move funds to avoid sanctions.

The White House said several allied nations, including Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and others, were involved in an attempt to gather and share information against the Russians targeted by sanctions. In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden warned the oligarch that the United States and European allies would “find and seize your yachts, luxury apartments, and private jets.”

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“We are coming for your bad gain,” he said.

Monday’s arrest isn’t the first time Spanish authorities have been implicated in the confiscation of a Russian oligarch’s luxury yacht. Officials there said they had seized a ship worth more than $140 million that belongs to the chief executive of a state-owned defense group and a close ally of Putin.

French authorities have also confiscated giant yachts, including those believed to be owned by Igor Sechin, a Putin ally who runs Russian oil giant Rosneft, which has been on the US sanctions list since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Italy also confiscated many yachts and other assets.

The Italian financial police moved quickly to seize the superyacht “Lina” belonging to Gennady Timchenko, an oligarch close to Putin, in the port of San Remo; The 65-meter (215-foot) “Lady M” is owned by Alexei Mordashov in neighboring Imperia, has six suites and is estimated to be worth €65 million; So are villas in Tuscany and Como, according to government officials.

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Barra reported from Madrid and Balsamo reported from Washington.

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