Russian superyacht in Fiji handed to US authorities

·2-min read

A Fiji court on Tuesday handed a Russian superyacht to US authorities and said it can be removed from the Pacific nation, ending a contested eight-week stay.

The $300 million Amadea, linked by the United States to billionaire Russian politician Suleiman Kerimov, a target of sanctions, was impounded on arrival in Fiji in April at Washington's request.

Supreme Court President and Chief Justice Kamal Kumar on Tuesday dismissed an application lodged last week by the vessel's registered owners, Millemarin Investments, to delay execution of the court order.

Director of Public Prosecutions Christopher Pryde said the judge's ruling meant a US Justice Department warrant to seize the boat had been accepted.

"The decision acknowledges Fiji's commitment to respecting international mutual assistance requests and Fiji's international obligations," Pryde said in a statement.

"The court accepted the validity of the US warrant and agreed that issues concerning money laundering and ownership need to be decided in the court of original jurisdiction, in this case, the US District Court of Columbia.

"The Amadea has been handed over to US authorities and will now leave Fiji."

It ends a drawn-out legal process in which Fijian defence lawyer Feizel Haniff had denied Kerimov was the owner and argued that the Fijian law under which the 348-foot (106-metre) Amadea was detained did not allow the United States to take it away.

Haniff earlier filed appeals arguing the boat's real owner was Eduard Khudainatov, a wealthy Russian not under sanctions.

The United States sanctioned Kerimov in 2018 for alleged money laundering, and he has since been further sanctioned by several countries as well as the European Union following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

FBI agents boarded the Amadea soon after its arrival at the Fijian port of Lautoka in mid-April.

In the US warrant to seize the vessel, the section listing reasons to believe Kerimov is the yacht's owner was partly blacked out.

The warrant said ownership was transferred to Millemarin Investments in August 2021 and the seizure was based on probable "violations of US law, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, money laundering and conspiracy".

The yacht has a helipad, pool, jacuzzi and "winter garden" on deck, according to tracking website superyachtfan.com.

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