On April 4, 2022, the US Department of Justice announced that Spanish authorities seized the Tango, a $90 million yacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg, at the DOJ’s request. The DOJ reports that the seizure was coordinated through the Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency group in the US dedicated to the enforcement of sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures imposed by the US and its allies and partners in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine. According to US Attorney General Merrick Garland, this was the first time that the task force has seized an asset owned by a sanctioned individual with close ties to the Russian regime.
The DOJ reports that it requested Spain’s assistance after the DOJ obtained a search warrant in the US District Court for the District of Columbia based on allegations that the vessel was subject to forfeiture for violating US bank fraud, money laundering and sanctions statutes. In response to the request, law enforcement officers from Spain’s Guardia Civil executed a Spanish court order freezing the Tango, Vekselberg’s 255-foot luxury yacht. According to documents filed in the case, Vekselberg bought the Tango in 2011 after it was built and has owned it continuously since then despite efforts to use shell companies to obfuscate his ownership interest in the vessel and mask his connection to any related US dollar transactions. According to the warrant, after Vekselberg was sanctioned by the US in April of 2018, he and his staff continued to make several US dollar payments through US banks in order to support and maintain the Tango and its owners, including a December 2020 payment for a stay at a luxury resort in the Maldives and mooring fees for the yacht.
According to the DOJ, the Tango is now in Mallorca, Spain, and the burden to prove forfeitability is upon the US government.