The United States has recently announced its intention to seize a $300 million superyacht from a billionaire Russian oligarch as part of its ongoing efforts to combat international money laundering and corruption. This move sends a strong message to other wealthy individuals involved in such illicit activities that their prized possessions are not untouchable.
The superyacht, named Luna, is owned by Farkhad Akhmedov, who made his fortune in the oil and gas industry. It is one of the world’s largest and most luxurious vessels, boasting nine decks, a helipad, a swimming pool, and numerous other amenities. However, its opulence has been overshadowed by allegations of money laundering and bribery.
Akhmedov has been embroiled in a bitter divorce battle with his ex-wife, Tatiana Akhmedova, since 2016. In 2018, a UK court awarded Tatiana a record-breaking divorce settlement of $646 million, which she has struggled to collect as her ex-husband has eluded various legal attempts to enforce the judgment.
The United States now seeks to take advantage of its jurisdiction and enforce the settlement, as it believes the funds used to purchase Luna were illicitly acquired. This action underscores the global cooperation being witnessed in the fight against financial crimes, as the US and the UK work together to ensure justice is served.
By pursuing the forfeiture of Luna, the US sets a precedent that sends shockwaves throughout the international community. It reminds powerful individuals involved in corruption and money laundering that their extravagant lifestyle is not immune to legal repercussions, regardless of where they might seek refuge.
As this legal battle continues, it represents a pivotal moment in the fight against global corruption. Not only does it highlight the determination of governments to target ill-gotten gains, but it also demonstrates that no matter how elaborate or luxurious the prize, justice will be pursued relentlessly.
By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United States on Monday demanded the forfeiture of a $300 million superyacht it says is controlled by Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, who is under U.S. sanctions.
Authorities in Fiji seized the 106-metre Amadea yacht on a US warrant in May 2022, as Washington stepped up sanctions on people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin to pressure Moscow into the war against Ukraine to stop.
Monday’s complaint, filed in federal court in Manhattan, kicks off a potentially long legal process in which the United States will seek to acquire ownership of the yacht, which is moored in San Diego, then likely auction it off and give the proceeds to Ukraine will transfer.
According to Forbes magazine, Kerimov and his family are worth $10.7 billion.
He amassed much of his wealth through a stake in the Russian gold producer Polyus. Kerimov was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in 2014 and 2018 in response to Russian activities in Syria and Ukraine. These sanctions denied Kerimov access to the US financial system.
Polyus was sanctioned in May 2023. The company said the sanctions were unwarranted.
In Monday’s complaint, the U.S. Department of Justice said Kerimov purchased the Amadea in 2021 and then violated U.S. sanctions by making more than $1 million in alimony payments through U.S. financial institutions.
The owners of the yacht will have the opportunity to dispute that claim in court.
Kerimov could not immediately be reached for comment.
Lawyers for Millemarin Investments, a company that claims to own the Amadea, told a Fiji court last year that the Amadea was not owned by Kerimov but by former Rosneft chief Eduard Khudainatov, a Russian oligarch who has not been sanctioned .
Khudainatov is not named in Monday’s complaint.
U.S. prosecutors said a September 14, 2021 transaction that transferred ownership of the Amadea from Millemarin to a newly created company, Errigan Marine, was intended to create the impression that Evgeny Kochman, the president of sanctioned yacht broker Imperial Yachts, owned was from the yacht.
Prosecutors said Kochman was in fact just a “straw owner.”
In a statement, Imperial Yachts said it disputed the DOJ’s allegations and that neither the company nor Kochman “engaged in any illegal acts.”
Khudainatov sued the United States in federal court in San Diego on Monday to release the yacht, according to a copy of the complaint from his attorney, Adam Ford. Reuters could not immediately find the legal papers online.
“The Amadea was seized on false premises, driven by political motivation,” Ford said in a statement.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)