US seeks Amadea forfeiture
US authorities have initiated legal proceedings to claim ownership of Amadea following alleged links with sanctioned Russians and money laundering…
The US is seeking to take ownership of 106m Amadea having filed a complaint against the vessel and its alleged owner in a Manhattan federal court on Monday. The complaint has kickstarted what will likely be a lengthy judicial process in which the US will potentially seek to take possession of the yacht, auction it and use the proceeds from the sale to aid the Ukrainian war effort.
US authorities allege that the now infamous Lürssen is ultimately owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, who spent millions of dollars on the yacht through a series of shell companies, despite the sanctions against him. The complaint continues to allege that Amadea is forfeitable based on violations of US law, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and money laundering violations.
The case is led by Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Michael Khoo and David Lim, Co-Directors of Task Force KleptoCapture (an OFAC team designed to seize and sell assets belonging to Russian oligarchs).
“The US brings this action today 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 US financial system to support and maintain the yacht for his benefit,” says Khoo.
According to US officials, Kerimov gained beneficial ownership of the vessel in September 2021 through a series of transfers between shell companies conducted in a manner designed to conceal his ownership of the yacht.
The ownership of Amadea was transferred from the former title holder, Nereo Management to Millemarin Investments, which was created around 30 days before the sale. Ownership was then transferred to Errigal Marine, another newly incorporated company, which was used to further obscure Kerimov’s beneficial ownership of Amadea.
Notably, lawyers for Millemarin Investments told a Fiji court that Amadea was owned by former Rosneft CEO, Eduard Khudainatov, who has not been sanctioned. Khudainatov has also been named as the owner of Scheherazade, which has been heavily linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but was not named in the complaint filed on Monday.
The yacht's owners will have the chance to contest the claim in court. However, given the circumstances and nature of the sanctions, it is unclear whether the owner will be capable of finding representation.
Amadea is currently under the control of US government authorities in San Diego, California, following its seizure by the Republic of Fiji last year following a request from the US.
“The filing of this complaint exemplifies that the US takes sanction evasion seriously and will use all tools at its disposal to ensure that sanctioned individuals are held accountable for their crimes,” says Williams.
“It underscores our resolve to undertake challenging, cross-border investigations and to send a message to Russian oligarchs and their enablers: if you flout the rule of law, you can expect to pay real and meaningful consequences.”
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