U.S. seeks to seize superyacht in Fiji from suspected Russian owner

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Dagestani born tycoon Suleiman Kerimov watches a soccer match between Anzhi and CSKA in Makhachkala December 2, 2012. REUTERS/Sergei Rasulov/ NewsTeam

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SYDNEY, April 19 (Reuters) - The United States seeks to seize a superyacht that is suspected of belonging to a Russian oligarch and is docked in the Pacific island nation of Fiji, according to an application for a restraining order filed on Tuesday by Fiji's public prosecutor.

The luxury vessel the Amadea is widely believed to be owned by Russian tycoon Suleiman Kerimov, who has been sanctioned by the United States and European Union. The vessel arrived in Fiji a week ago after leaving Mexico 18 days earlier and crossing the Pacific. Police are investigating. read more

Authorities in various countries have confiscated luxury vessels and villas owned by Russian billionaires in response to sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, which Russia calls a special military operation.

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Fiji's director of public prosecutions, Christopher Pryde, filed an application to the High Court seeking to prevent the Amadea from leaving Fiji.

The application requested "the motor yacht Amadea be restrained from leaving Fijian waters until the finalisation of an application to register a warrant to seize the property and (ii) that a US warrant to seize the Amadea be registered".

The U.S. embassy on Tuesday referred questions on the case to the U.S. Department of Justice.

"We continue to ratchet up the pressure on Putin’s oligarchs and we are working with allies and partners to go after corrupt gains from some of the individuals closest to Putin, no matter where they are held around the world," the embassy said in a statement on Tuesday.

The court has not heard the application.

A superyacht agent in Fiji acting for the Amadea told Reuters last week the vessel's lawyers were contesting that Suleiman was the owner.

Registration records viewed by Reuters show the yacht is registered to a company in the Cayman islands.

"The legal ownership of the vessel remains subject to investigation," said a spokeswoman from Fiji's Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Kerimov was sanctioned by the United States in 2014 and 2018 in response to Russia's actions in Syria and Ukraine.

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Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Robert Birsel and Mark Heinrich

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