SuperyachtNews.com - Fleet - Alfa Nero to take centre court

By Conor Feasey

Alfa Nero to take centre court

The litigious tennis match the seized superyacht has found itself in is set to continue as the High Court Judge schedules hearing dates for later this year…

The alleged owner of Alfa Nero has challenged the constitutionality of the legislative amendment that allows the Antiguan government to seize and sell the yacht. A High Court Judge has scheduled the initial hearing for Yulia Gurieva-Motlokhov's challenge of the Port Authority (Amendment) Act for 20 September, 2024.

Yulia Guryeva-Motlokhov, daughter of the sanctioned Russian Andrey Guryev, recently fell under UK sanctions and has failed to stop the sale of the Alfa Nero through a court injunction. She is now contesting the legality of the Port Authority (Amendment) Act 2023, used by the government to seize the Alfa Nero last year, arguing that it nullified her ownership rights to the vessel.

According to an Antiguan government statement in 2023, international law enforcement agencies identified the beneficial owners of the vessel as both Andrey Guryev and his daughter.

However, having failed to claim ownership of the yacht within the specified time frame, and despite several attempts from the government to make contact with both Guryeva-Motlokhov and Guryev, the government deemed the vessel to be abandoned, and thus posed an environmental hazard. It subsequently seized the vessel and took ownership status.

To achieve this, the government of Antigua and Barbuda enacted the Port Authority Amendment Act 2023. This legislation stipulates that if a vessel has been detained, seized, or abandoned and is deemed to pose an imminent threat to the safety of others or the environment, the government reserves the right to assume possession and sell the yacht.

After covering all expenses, the proceeds from the sale will be directed to the Consolidated Fund of Antigua and Barbuda, an unconventional move for a judicial sale, but one that relies on the fact that the government is now the lawful owner of the yacht following the amendment.

These measures may appear draconian, but for a nation heavily dependent on tourism, the potential risks and liabilities associated with an uninsured deteriorating yacht in their waters are simply untenable. These risks are only accentuated by the country’s tropical climate, which is prone to seasonal hurricanes.

Now, High Court Judge Rene Williams has denied Gurieva-Motlokhov interim relief to stop the sale of the yacht. The judge cites concerns about impacting others’ participation in the sale proceedings and has maintained that the Act is in fact lawful, and it is up to Gurieva-Motlokhov to prove otherwise.

“The court should not make an order requiring the Port Manager to act contrary to an Act of Parliament in these circumstances,” says Judge Williams. “A party is not entitled to sit back and take no action and then purport to invoke the court’s jurisdiction on an urgent basis. Any prejudice suffered by [Gurieva-Motlokhov] is thus through her own inaction.”

Judge Williams acknowledged that there is a significant legal question regarding whether the Port Authority (Amendment) Act 2023 complies with sections (fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual) and 9 (protection from deprivation of property) of the Constitution. However, he believes that these issues can only be fully addressed and resolved during a formal trial proceeding, rather than during preliminary hearings or interim actions.

The judge has also set the case involving the Flying Dutchman Overseas – a British Virgin Islands company and Alfa Nero’s registered owner – for 20 September, when a decision will be taken on whether to hear both cases together.

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