Fiji Superyacht Is Now in US Custody

US sailed oligarch-linked Amadea away soon after top court ruled in its favor
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 27, 2022 2:37 AM CDT
Updated Jun 7, 2022 8:53 PM CDT
US Wins Round in Battle to Seize Superyacht
Boat captain Emosi Dawai looks at the superyacht Amadea at the Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji.   (Leon Lord/Fiji Sun via AP, File)

(Newser) Update: The United States won a legal battle on Tuesday to seize a Russian-owned superyacht in Fiji and wasted no time in taking command of the $325 million vessel and sailing it away from the South Pacific nation. Fiji's Supreme Court lifted a stay order which had prevented the US from seizing the superyacht Amadea. The court ruling represented a significant victory for the US as it encounters obstacles in its attempts to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs around the world, the AP reports. The US removed the motorized vessel within an hour or two of the court's ruling, possibly to ensure the yacht didn't get entangled in any further legal action. Our story from May 27 follows:

The United States has won the latest round of a legal battle to seize a $325 million Russian-owned superyacht in Fiji, with the case now appearing headed for the Pacific nation's top court. 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, the AP reports. Haniff says 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.

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, who has an estimated net worth of $16 billion. 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 348-foot 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 argues the owner is another wealthy Russian who doesn't face sanctions: Eduard Khudainatov, who is also—possibly on paper only—the owner of a superyacht linked to Vladimir Putin. The US claims Kerimov secretly bought the Amadea last year through shell companies. 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.

(Read more Russia sanctions stories.)

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