The FBI has reportedly found criminal evidence onboard a Russian oligarch's superyacht.
Since Russian president Vladimir Putin first sent troops across the border into Ukraine on 24 February, US authorities have been trying to track down $300 million superyacht the Amadea, which they believe is owned by sanctioned Russian billionaire and federation senator Suleiman Kerimov.
On Thursday, 12 May, US law enforcement boarded the vessel after it arrived in Fiji following an 18-day trip from Mexico, having turned off its automated information systems (AIS) 'almost immediately after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine'.
Officials reportedly found incriminating evidence against Kerimov onboard the Amadea.
Kerimov is one of a whole group of Russian oligarchs identified by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control as profiting from the Russian government 'through corruption and its malign activity around the globe, including the occupation of Crimea,' as per The United States Department of Justice.
After having been sanctioned by the US in 2018, Kerimov is accused of having 'caused US dollar transactions for the operation and maintenance of the Amadea to be sent through US financial institutions' of around $25 to $35 million each year.
After seizing the boat, the FBI alleged evidence of crimes committed by Kerimov and his associates 'including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), money laundering and conspiracy' was recovered from the Amadea in the form of documentation.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said the seizure of the superyacht – assisted by Fijian authorities who got a domestic seizure warrant – 'demonstrates the FBI's persistence in pursuing sanctioned Russian oligarchs attempting to evade accountability for their role in jeopardising our national security'.
He stated: "The FBI, along with our international partners, will continue to seek out those individuals who contribute to the advancement of Russia’s malign activities and ensure they are brought to justice, regardless of where, or how, they attempt to hide."
Director Andrew Adams of Task Force KleptoCapture – 'an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export controls, and economic countermeasures that the United States, along with its foreign allies and partners, has imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine' – also noted how the seizure exemplifies the 'reach' of the Department of Justice.
Adams continued: "This Task Force will continue to bring to bear every resource available in this unprecedented, multinational series of enforcement actions against the Russian regime and its enablers."
Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco explained the department had 'its eyes on every yacht purchased with dirty money'.
"This yacht seizure should tell every corrupt Russian oligarch that they cannot hide – not even in the remotest part of the world. We will use every means of enforcing the sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine," she said.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland echoed similar sentiments, warning the ruling 'should make clear that there is no hiding place for the assets of individuals who violate U.S. laws. And there is no hiding place for the assets of criminals who enable the Russian regime'.
"The Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to hold accountable those who facilitate the death and destruction we are witnessing in Ukraine," Garland said.
The Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji, alongside the FBI's New York Field Office as well as the FBI Legal Attaché Office in Canberra, Australia, are all working together on the investigation into the vessel and oligarch.
Director of the US Marshals Service, Ronald L Davis, concluded: "The U.S. Marshals Service will continue to contribute our expertise in support of Task Force efforts to take possession of seized assets of Russian oligarchs during these forfeiture operations."
The Amadea currently remains in Lautoka, Fiji, however it is expected to be taken to the US and 'berthed at a port appropriate for the size of the vessel'.
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Featured Image Credit: US Department of Justice/Hlebushek/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)