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The U.S. government on Monday seized in Spain a megayacht owned by an oligarch closely associated with the Russian president, the first in the government’s initiative to enforce sanctions to “confiscate and freeze” giant boats and other expensive assets of Russian elites.
The Spanish Civil Guard and US federal agents have boarded a yacht in Marina Real in the port of Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the Spanish Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. Associated Press reporters at the scene on Monday morning saw police coming in and out of the boat.
The confiscation was confirmed by two acquaintances. People were unable to discuss the issue publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. A spokesman for the Spanish Civil Guard confirmed that Spanish police and FBI officers were at the pier to search the vessel Monday morning, and said more details would be released later.
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A Civil Guard source told the Associated Press that the stationary yacht is the Tango, a 78-meter (254-foot) vessel carrying the Cook Islands flag, and that Superyachtfan.com, a specialized site that tracks the world’s largest and most exclusive pleasure boats . worth $ 120 million. The source was also not authorized to be named in media reports and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The yacht is among the assets associated with Viktor Vekselberg, a billionaire and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who heads Moscow’s Renova Group, a conglomerate that includes metals, mining, technology and other assets, according to US Treasury Department documents. All of Vekselberg’s assets in the United States are frozen, and American companies are banned from doing business with him and his organizations.
The move is the first time the U.S. government has seized the oligarch’s yacht after Attorney General Merrick Garland and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen assembled a task force known as the REPO – short for Russian elites, proxies and oligarchs – as an attempt to impose sanctions after the invasion. Russia’s Ukraine in late February.
Vekselberg has long had ties to the United States, including the green card he once held, and at home in New York and Connecticut. A native of Ukraine, the businessman created his fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era.
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Vekselberg was also questioned in an investigation by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and worked closely with his American cousin Andrew Intrater, who heads New York-based investment management firm Columbus Nova.
Vekselberg and Intrater came to the forefront of Mueller’s investigation after attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels published a note alleging that $ 500,000 in custom money had been transferred through Columbus Nova to a fictitious campaign set up by Maipakl’s personal lawyer Cohen. Columbus Nova denied that Vekselberg had played any role in Cohen’s payments.
Vekselberg and Intrater met with Cohen at the Trump Tower, one of several meetings between members of Trump’s inner circle and high-level Russians during the 2016 campaign and transition period.
The 64-year-old tycoon founded the Renova Group more than three decades ago. Among other investments, the group owns the largest stake in United Co. Rusal, the largest aluminum producer in Russia.
Vekselberg was first imposed under US sanctions in 2018 and again in March this year, shortly after the start of the invasion of Ukraine. Vekselberg also came under sanctions from the United Kingdom authorities.
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The U.S. Department of Justice has also launched a sanctions task force known as KleptoCapture, which also aims to enforce financial restrictions in the United States on Russia and its billionaires, working with the FBI, Treasury and other federal agencies. This task force will also target financial institutions and organizations that have helped oligarchs transfer money to avoid sanctions.
The White House said many allies, including Germany, Britain, France, Italy and others, were involved in trying to gather and share information against the Russians against whom sanctions were imposed. In his address on the state of the Union, President Joe Biden warned the oligarch that the United States and European allies “will find and confiscate your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets.”
“We are coming for your wrongs,” he said.
The capture on Monday is not the first time the Spanish authorities have taken part in the capture of a Russian oligarch’s superyacht. Officials there said they had hijacked a ship worth more than $ 140 million belonging to the director general of the state defense conglomerate and a close ally of Putin.
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French authorities have also seized superyachts, including one believed to belong to Igor Sechin, Putin’s ally, who controls Russia’s oil giant Rosneft, which has been on the US sanctions list since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Italy also confiscated several yachts and other assets.
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Italian financial police quickly seized the Lena superyacht in the port of San Remo, owned by Putin’s oligarch Gennady Timchenko; The 65-meter (215-foot) Lady M, owned by Alexei Mardashov in the neighboring Imperia, has six suites and is valued at 65 million euros; as well as villas in Tuscany and Como, according to government officials.