NY: The U.S. government said it is spending more than $7 million a year to maintain a superyacht it seized from a sanctioned Russian oligarch and urged a judge to allow him to auction the boat before a dispute over its ownership is resolved.
Fijian authorities seized the $300 million, 106-meter (348-foot) Amadea in May 2022, pursuant to a U.S. warrant alleging it was owned by Suleiman Kerimov, a billionaire sanctioned by the U.S. US Treasury Department in 2014 and 2018 in response to Russian aggression. activities in Syria and Ukraine.
Efforts to auction the yacht are being questioned by Eduard Khudainatov, who headed Russian state oil and gas company Rosneft from 2010 to 2013.
Khudainatov claims ownership of the Amadea and has said he cannot lose it because he has not been sanctioned.
In a court filing late Friday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan told U.S. District Judge Dale Ho that the average monthly maintenance bill of $600,000 for the Amadea has been “excessive,” warranting an auction. They also said talks for Khudainatov to pay for the yacht’s maintenance had broken down.
Prosecutors have said in previous court filings that Khudainatov is acting as the “front owner” of the Amadea to disguise Kerimov’s role, and that maintenance payments are essential to preserving the value of a yacht.
Khudainatov has until February 23 to respond to prosecutors’ request. In a statement, his lawyers said the motion to sell the ship was “premature” and urged Ho to deny it until he “determines whether the seizure was unconstitutional.”
The seizure came as Washington stepped up sanctions against people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin to pressure Moscow to stop its war against Ukraine.
If the US government managed to auction the yacht, it would likely eventually transfer the proceeds from the sale to Ukraine.
Prosecutors have said Kerimov violated U.S. sanctions by making more than $1 million in maintenance payments for the Amadea through the U.S. financial system, making the ship now docked in San Diego subject to forfeiture.
Kerimov and his family are worth $10.7 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He amassed his fortune through the Russian gold miner Polyus, although he is no longer a shareholder.
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