United States Government Seizes Yacht Owned By Russian Oligarch

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The U.S. government has carried out what appears to be its first seizure of a Russian oligarch-owned yacht amid the global effort to hold Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his cronies financially accountable for the unfolding violence in Ukraine. The vessel brought under the control of the U.S. government was in Spanish waters, and besides the federal personnel from the United States who were present, members of Spain’s Civil Guard also participated in the seizure. That Spanish law enforcement agency confirmed that the endeavor was launched following a request from authorities in the United States. As for the value of the seized yacht, which is apparently known as the Tango and measures some 254 feet, a website called Superyachtfan.com pins the craft’s worth at $120 million, per the Associated Press.

The seized yacht is tied to Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who leads the multi-pronged Russian company called the Renova Group. Although Vekselberg hasn’t been sanctioned by the European Union, of which Spain is a member, the Putin-allied billionaire has been targeted by both the U.S. and the U.K. In the United States, Vekselberg was also placed under investigation for potential crimes including tax fraud, money laundering, and falsifying documents with the aim of concealing the ownership of the yacht that was seized off the Spanish coast. Notably, Vekselberg was among those questioned during the Robert Mueller-led investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections — the wealthy Russian’s connections to the U.S. include past possession of a green card. An investment company led by Vekselberg’s cousin, Andrew Intrater, was alleged to be a middleman of sorts in payments involved in the hush money scheme that landed ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in jail, but the company said Vekselberg wasn’t involved in transactions with Cohen, although Vekselberg and Intrater met with the former Trump attorney.

As for the yacht, the Spanish Civil Guard also spoke of “a complicated financial and societal web to conceal its truthful ownership,” and documents and computers onboard the vessel were apparently taken into the possession of agents involved in the seizure. Those items will be examined for the purpose of confirming the yacht’s ownership, Spanish authorities said. Although these developments constitute the apparent first seizure of a Russian oligarch’s yacht by U.S. authorities, the Justice Department previously stated that U.S. law enforcement provided information to foreign partners that assisted with certain seizures, although it didn’t specify which seizures it was referencing. Efforts around the world to take control of Russian assets in response to the war in Ukraine have been formidable — in Switzerland alone, the government recently revealed that it had frozen over $6 billion worth of Russian assets of various forms. (That information emerged in late March.) Although Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, it has adopted the union’s sanctions in relation to the war in Ukraine.