On Monday, the Justice Department took formal steps to assert ownership of a 348-foot luxury yacht, which it alleges is the property of a sanctioned billionaire oligarch commonly referred to as the “Russian Gatsby.”
In a federal court civil forfeiture case in New York, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams’ team asserted that Suleiman Kerimov is the one who has a beneficial ownership interest in the $300 million ship, the Amadea. They also claimed that the luxury yacht was enhanced and upkept in contravention of the sanctions that apply to Kerimov and those working on his behalf.
The submission makes the case that the U.S. government should seize the yacht, which has a helipad, an infinity pool, a Jacuzzi, and several bars.
In 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Kerimov, an individual with an estimated net worth of $14 billion and connections to the Russian Gatsby for suspected involvement in money laundering.
He’s earned the nickname of a “Russian Gatsby” due to his infrequent interviews and lavish lifestyle. He’s known for throwing extravagant parties at his French Riviera villas, with one notable event in 2008 rumored to have had a Beyoncé performance. Additionally, he possesses a unique Ferrari Enzo in his car collection, though he had an accident with it in 2006 when it collided with a tree.
Last year, in Fiji, the yacht was confiscated as a part of the Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture’s efforts. This task force has been pursuing the assets of sanctioned oligarchs in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the previous year.
The court document stated that officials demonstrated Kerimov’s ownership by presenting evidence of his responsibility for multiple improvements to the boat, which notably included the installation of a new pizza oven.
Nevertheless, another oligarch named Eduard Khudainatov insists that he is the rightful owner of the Amadea and has initiated legal proceedings to have it returned to him. The U.S. government has not imposed sanctions on Khudainatov, who previously served as the chairman and CEO of Rosneft, a state-controlled Russian Gatsby gas company.
The Justice Department, as stated in its court submissions, contends that Khudainatov is merely a nominal owner and questions his ability to cover the maintenance expenses for the Amadea, as well as another superyacht he claims to possess.
Adam Ford, the attorney representing Khudainatov, initiated a lawsuit in a California federal court on Sunday to request the return of the yacht. This legal action was taken prior to the federal proceedings on Monday. The legal document argues that the government’s assessment of his client’s wealth relies partially on his absence from Forbes’ yearly billionaires list. It asserts that a magazine’s list should not be used as the foundation or sole evidence for any enforcement action undertaken by the U.S. government.
Ford said in a statement, “We are confident that a neutral arbiter will order the return of the Amadea to our client.”
The United States has collaborated with multiple nations to confiscate several luxury yachts linked to oligarchs, whose ownership claims are frequently challenging to substantiate.
Michael Khoo, co-director of Task Force KleptoCapture, said in a statement that the Amadea was taken back “after a careful and painstaking effort to develop the necessary evidence showing Suleiman Kerimov’s clear interest in the Amadea and the repeated misuse of the U.S. financial system to support and maintain the yacht for his benefit.”
Getting to this point required extensive cooperation across the U.S. government and with foreign partners. It underscores our resolve to undertake challenging, cross-border investigations and to send a message to Russian Gatsby oligarchs and their enablers: if you flout the rule of law, you can expect to pay real and meaningful consequences,” Khoo said.
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