Eric Schmidt retracts Alfa Nero bid
Amid constant legal battles, the former Google CEO has walked away from purchasing the superyacht, adding to the quagmire…
Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, has withdrawn his interest in acquiring the 82m Alfa Nero. The decision was confirmed by Antigua and Barbuda's Ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Sanders.
Schmidt has opted to abandon his pursuit of the Oceanco superyacht due to persistent legal complications, making it impossible for him to secure a clear title to the vessel. A clear title is crucial to establish exclusive ownership rights over the yacht and prevent any potential claims from other parties. Sanders expressed his disagreement with Schmidt's position in a conversation with Bloomberg, emphasising that the vessel is “owned by the government.”
As a result of Schmidt's withdrawal, Alfa Nero is now poised to be awarded to the second-highest bidder, Warren Halle, who submitted a bid of $66m during the vessel's auction on June 16th earlier this year. Schmidt's original winning bid was valued at $67.6m. In contrast, the third and lowest bid amounted to $25m, falling significantly below the minimum sale price of $60m.
Another development in the case of Alfa Nero, is that whilst American billionaire, Warren Halle, is now likely to receive the yacht’s title, he recently launched a lawsuit against the government of Antigua and Barbuda. According to court documents, the businessman claims that he met with Prime Minister Gaston Brown on the 14th of March 2023, before the seizure of the vessel, to discuss its purchase.
Halle alleges that he was not informed that the yacht was under OFAC sanctions and considered blocked property, and was instead instructed to transfer $10m into a trust account. Halle was then informed two months later, on the 23rd of May 2023, that the Prime Minister did not have the authority to sell him the superyacht, and it could only be bought in the auction.
Since the government seized the superyacht, numerous legal challenges have arisen aimed at preventing the sale. These challenges revolve around the claim that Yulia Guryeva-Motlokhov is Alfa Nero's rightful owner.
Guryeva-Motlokhov is the daughter of sanctioned Russian oligarch, Andrey Guryev and is the sole beneficiary of a trust that holds ownership of the Alfa Nero through a shareholding in the British Virgin Islands-based firm, Flying Dutchman Limited. Guryev is currently on sanctions lists issued by the US, EU and the UK and is thought to be worth $11.4bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
In another unusual twist to the Alfa Nero saga, while the Attorney General leads the government's efforts to sell the yacht, Halle is represented by the Attorney General's son, Damien Benjamin. This scenario could raise further ethical concerns, as it places members of the same family on opposing sides of the transaction.
Alfa Nero, which has been abandoned in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua for over a year, was acquired by the government on April 11th, 2023. To do this, the government of Antigua and Barbuda passed the Port Authority Amendment Act 2023. This states that if the vessel has as a result of sanctions been detained, seized or abandoned, the government can seize and sell the vessel if it poses an imminent threat to safety or is likely to cause environmental damage. Once all expenses are paid, the sale proceeds will go to the Consolidated Fund of Antigua and Barbuda.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda have not immediately responded to comments.
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