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Court in Fiji approves U.S. warrant to seize Russian-owned mega-yacht

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Fiji's High Court on Tuesday ruled that a massive Russian-owned yacht can be seized by U.S. authorities.

American and Fijian officials claim the Cayman Islands-flagged Amadea is the property of Suleiman Kerimov, an oligarch who built his fortune on gold mining. Kerimov was sanctioned in March by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

"The Amadea" yacht anchored in Turkey in 2020
The super luxury yacht Amadea, one of the largest yachts in the world, is seen anchored in Turkey on February 18, 2020. Osman Uras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

But an attorney who represents Millemarin Investments, the company the $325 million ship is registered to, said it's not owned by Kerimov. Instead, he argued in court that corporate paperwork traces the ship's ownership to Eduard Khudainatov, a former executive at Russia's state-owned Rosneft oil company who has not been sanctioned. 

Kerimov and Khudainatov could not be reached for comment. The company intends to appeal Tuesday's decision.

The Amadea berthed in Fiji on April 13, according to local reports and the maritime analytics website Marine Traffic. Soon after, a federal judge approved a warrant for the ship to be seized and on April 19, Fiji's top prosecutor moved to prevent the ship from leaving.

The Department of Justice could not immediately be reached for comment. 

On April 4, the agency announced that Spanish authorities had assisted it in seizing another Russian yacht, the $90 million Tango, which was owned by Viktor Vekselberg, the owner of the Russian conglomerate Renova Group.

Legislation passed by the House of Representatives on April 27 would allow the U.S. to sell the yacht and other properties worth more than $2 million seized from Russian oligarchs in order to fund the Ukrainian war effort. President Joe Biden supports the bill, which has yet to pass the Senate.

"We're going to seize their yachts, their luxury homes and other ill-begotten gains," Biden said on April 28 at the White House.

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