May 6, 2022

Yacht owned by Russian oligarch seized by Fijian authorities in connection with US sanctions and AML violations

On May 5, 2022, the US Department of Justice announced the seizure of Motor Yacht Amadea, a 348-foot yacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.  The yacht, valued at more than $300 million, was seized by Fijian law enforcement authorities with the assistance of the FBI pursuant to a mutual legal assistance request from the DOJ, to execute of a seizure warrant issued by the US District Court for the District of Columbia.  According to the warrant, the yacht was subject to forfeiture based on probable cause that it was linked to several violations of US law, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), money laundering and conspiracy.

According to court documents, Kerimov, a Russian national and member of the Russian Federation Council, was designated by OFAC in April 2016 pursuant to Russia/Crimea sanctions, specifically Executive Order 13661, as a Russian official who benefited from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime and Russia’s malign activities, including the occupation of Crimea.  An affidavit in support of the application for the seizure warrant indicated that there was probable cause to believe that Kerimov had owned the Amadea since 2021 and that he, or persons/entities under his control, purchased and maintained the vessel using US dollar transactions that transited US financial institutions following his designation, in violation of US sanctions laws. According to the affidavit, the Kerimov and his team paid between $25 and $30 million per year to maintain the Amadea based on ledgers found on the yacht during a search by Fijian authorities in April 2022, and without ever obtaining proper licenses from OFAC before engaging in US dollar transactions that were routed through U.S. financial institutions.  There was also probable cause to support that Kerimov and his coconspirators conspired to cause international payments to be made via money laundering transactions in order to maintain the yacht and pay registration and travel expenses.

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.

The Amadea is currently detained in Lautoka, Fiji.

DOJ Press Release | Amadea Seizure Warrant Application