U.S. Seizes Russian Oligarch’s Luxury Yacht in Spain
In the ongoing hunt for assets belonging to Russians sanctioned over the invasion of Ukraine, Spain seized on Monday a US$90 million yacht from oligarch Viktor Vekselberg at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
press release from the DOJ announced that the 255-foot Tango, anchored in the port of Palma de Mallorca, had a seizure warrant filed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and approved by a Spanish court. The luxury yacht is part of a federal investigation into bank fraud, money laundering, and sanction evasion practices.A
According to Bloomberg, Vekselberg - who is worth $16.9 billion - is President of the Skolkovo Foundation and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Renova Group of Companies which has been under U.S. sanctions since 2018.
The seizure was coordinated through a DOJ Task Force - KleptoCapture - an inter-agency task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures imposed by the U.S. and its allies.
“Today marks our taskforce’s first seizure of an asset belonging to a sanctioned individual with close ties to the Russian regime. It will not be the last,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
The action “makes clear that corrupt Russian oligarchs cannot evade sanctions to live a life of luxury as innocent Ukrainians are suffering,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco.
“Today the Department of Justice delivers on our commitment to hold accountable those whose criminal activity strengthens the Russian government as it continues to wage its unjust war in Ukraine. That commitment is one we are not finished honoring.”
When purchasing the yacht in 2011, Vekselberg used shell companies to avoid bank oversight into U.S. dollar transactions related to the purchase, according to an Affidavit from the U.S. District Court of Columbia.
Vekselberg was sanctioned in 2018 by the U.S. Treasury Department in response to global malign activity and the Russian violent occupation of Crimea. The Affidavit shows he continued to send money through U.S. financial institutions, mainly to cover maintenance and mooring fees for the Tango, and to finance a week-long stay at a luxury villa in the Maldives in December 2020 worth $50,000.
The transaction was wired through a third party - Master Yachts - a Spanish company which manages several luxury yachts including the Tango.
The Tango sailed under the flag of the Cook Islands. It is registered to a company from the Virgin Islands, and is run by multiple firms including some based out of Panama.