US plans to seize superyacht in Fiji challenged in oligarch dispute

Wellington: A judge in Fiji is due to rule on whether American authorities can seize the luxurious superyacht Amadea — worth some $454 million — which has been stopped from leaving the South Pacific nation because of its links to Russia.

But a vital question remains over which oligarch really owns the Amadea. Only one of the two possible candidates faces sanctions.

Is the real owner Suleiman Kerimov? That’s what the US claims.

The Amadea docked at Lautoka Wharf in Fiji.

The Amadea docked at Lautoka Wharf in Fiji.

Kerimov, an economist and former Russian politician, was sanctioned by the US in 2018 for alleged money laundering and has faced further sanctions from Canada, Europe and Britain after Russia invaded Ukraine. Kerimov made a fortune investing in Russian gold producer Polyus, with Forbes magazine putting his net worth at $US14.5 billion.

Or is the real owner Eduard Khudainatov? That’s what defence lawyers claim.

Khudainatov is the former chairman and chief executive of Rosneft, the state-controlled Russian oil and gas company. Crucially, Khudainatov currently does not appear to face any sanctions, unlike many oligarchs and people with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin who have been sanctioned since the war began.

As with many superyachts, determining the real ownership of the Amadea is difficult due to the shadowy trail of trusts and shell companies. On paper, the superyacht is registered in the Cayman Islands and owned by Millemarin Investments, also based in the Cayman Islands.

Defence lawyers have claimed in court that Millemarin Investments (sometimes spelled Millemarine) is the legal owner of the vessel and that the company is linked to the real, or beneficial, owner, Khudainatov. But US authorities have claimed that behind all the various fronts, the real owner is Kerimov.

Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov in 2012.

Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov in 2012.Credit:AP

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