Mysterious Russian superyacht sets sail for US after Fiji court ruling | Ukraine

It cost $325m (£258m) to build and millions more each year to operate. When not at sea, the superyacht Amadea requires a crew of 24 deckhands and engineers to maintain her ship form.

In a written statement to a court in Fiji, where the ship has been the subject of a legal battle over the Russian oligarch to whom it belongs, its captain listed the expensive and perishable materials: marble, gold metal fittings , delicate carpets, silk, gemstone woods and leathers, teak decking, mirror polished stainless steel and high gloss paint system.

Without the proper care and the kind of temperature and humidity controls normally used to preserve valuable works of art, the captain said the Amadea would “deteriorate rapidly”, leaving “an unsalable hull”. He estimated the cost of just keeping her in dry dock at $1.1 million a month. “There’s a very, very limited number of buyers who can afford its upkeep, let alone its purchase price,” he explained.

The identity of this buyer will now be settled by a US court. Seized while on a South Pacific voyage at the request of US authorities, the Amadea has spent the past few weeks docked at Lautoka Wharf in Fiji, awaiting the outcome of a legal dispute between the Ministry of American Justice and the British Virgin Islands Society in whose name it is registered.

Fiji’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday morning that the ship could be handed over to US authorities, and the Amadea is now on its way to America.

Lawyers for former Russian oil boss Eduard Khudainatov insist he owns it. They say he is the settlor of a trust, established under English law, which ultimately holds the ship through a winding trail of offshore companies. US officials say Khudainatov is just a replacement. They say the Amadea is owned by one of Russia’s richest men, gold tycoon Suleiman Kerimov, who is currently under Western sanctions.

The case is significant because America has raised questions about whether Khudainatov could be the owner of another, even more valuable mega-yacht. The $700 million Scheherazade, with its six decks and two helipads, was seized in Tuscany following the invasion of Ukraine. Khudainatov is said to have owned the yacht through another offshore structure, but he has not confirmed this, leaving his true ownership even less certain than the Amadea. Italian police are investigating claims that the ship may ultimately belong to Vladimir Putin, who, like Kerimov, is now blacklisted in Europe and the United States.

The combined value of the two yachts is $1 billion.

In court documents, US authorities said the fact that Khudainatov “is believed to be the owner of the two largest superyachts ever registered, both linked to sanctioned individuals” suggests he was being used as a “clean straw owner.” and unauthorized to conceal the true beneficial owners of these vessels”.

The 61-year-old businessman’s ties to Putin date back to his first presidential campaign in 2000, which Khudainatov helped organize. A former pig farmer from Kazakhstan, he has also been described as a friend of former Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who succeeded him as head of state oil giant Rosneft in 2013.

Khudainatov’s oil business acquired significant stakes in companies involved in the energy sector, as well as their extraction licenses, from Rosneft, according to the EU sanctions list. And Rosneft paid Khudainatov $9.6 billion in exchange for a company that owns an oil field in Taymyr, Siberia, he added. His business grew rapidly.

While US authorities admitted that Khudainatov was “rich”, they claimed that “there is no reason to believe that he has the financial resources to buy the Amadea and the Scheherazade, or is there there an apparent reason for a single individual to own multiple superyachts of their size,” according to court documents.

Until last week, Khudainatov had not faced sanctions in any jurisdiction. On Friday, however, the European Union added it to its blacklist. He cited the benefits he gained from running a major Russian oil company, but did not mention his connection to yachts.

EU restrictions against the Kazakh businessman have yet to be mirrored by the UK and US.

“Russia’s elites, including President Putin, rely on complex support networks to hide, move and store their wealth and luxuries,” Brian Nelson, undersecretary for terrorism and terrorism, said last week. financial intelligence at the US Treasury Department. “We will continue to enforce our sanctions and expose the corrupt systems through which President Putin and his elites enrich themselves,” he added.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Amadea’s owning company, Millemarin Investments, said the company was formed in June 2021, just a month before it was registered as the new owner of the vessel. Millemarin, in turn, is owned by another IVB-registered company, Invest International Finance, which has a Swiss entity, Boltenko Trust, as its sole shareholder. The trust was run by Olga Boltenko, an international tax and wealth adviser who is qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales and has worked for top UK law firms including Hogan Lovells and Withers.

Boltenko said in a statement on Tuesday that she and her firm had resigned and were no longer acting for the September Trust or Millemarin Investments.

But last month, while still acting for Khudainatov Boltenko, said in court papers that her firm was the trustee of the September Trust, an irrevocable, discretionary trust created in December 2019 under English law, whose settlor ( the person whose assets were placed in the trust) is Khudainatov. In her testimony, she did not name the beneficiary of the trust. However, she said that to her knowledge, Kerimov “has never held any interest in any of the companies and/or trusts identified”.

The US Department of Justice maintains that the Amadea has belonged to Kerimov since the fall of 2021, transferred, according to him, as part of a “Russian backdoor agreement”. He cited as evidence interviews with crew members and yacht industry employees conducted by an FBI agent.

Crew members said “measures have been taken to ensure the privacy” of the yacht’s guests, according to the filing. Each member of the family had been given code names: Kerimov was G-0, his wife G-1. The crew saw photos of Kerimov and his family and claimed they vacationed on board as recently as February 2022, in St. Barths and St. Maarten in the Caribbean. They said that on a four-month tour this year, the family were the “only guests on board”.

Kerimov and Khudainatov could not be reached for comment.

Investigations into the ultimate owner of the Amadea are now in the hands of US authorities. As is the case with one of the most expensive pleasure boats in the world.

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