It is the first in the government’s sanctions enforcement initiative to “seize and freeze” giant boats and other pricey assets of Russian elites.
Spain’s Civil Guard and US FBI officers descended on the yacht at the Marina Real in the port of Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Spain’s Balearic Islands.
The US Justice Department, which obtained a warrant from a federal judge in Washington, said the yacht should be forfeited for allegedly violating US bank fraud, money laundering and sanctions statutes.
A Spanish Civil Guard spokesman confirmed that officers from the Spanish police body and from the FBI were at the marina searching the vessel on Monday morning.
The immobilized yacht is Tango, a 254-foot vessel carrying a Cook Islands flag, a Civil Guard source said, and is valued at around £91.5 million according to superyachtfan.com, a specialized website tracking the world’s largest and most exclusive recreational boats.
The yacht is among the assets linked to Viktor Vekselberg, 64, a billionaire and close ally of Mr Putin who heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate encompassing metals, mining, tech and other assets, according to US Treasury Department documents.
Mr Vekselberg’s assets in the US are frozen and US companies are forbidden from doing business with him and his entities.
The Ukrainian-born businessman built his fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era.
I have founded Renova Group more than three decades ago. The group holds the largest stake in United Co. Rusal, Russia’s biggest aluminum producer, among other investments.
Mr Vekselberg, who holds a US Green Card and had homes in upstate New York, was first sanctioned by the US in 2018, and again this March, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. Mr Vekselberg has also been sanctioned by authorities in the United Kingdom.
The White House said many allied countries, including Germany, the UK, France, Italy and others are trying to collect and share information against Russians targeted for sanctions.
President Joe Biden warned oligarchs the US and its European allies will “find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets”.
He said: “We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”
Spanish authorities previously seized a vessel valued at about £107 million owned by the CEO of a state-owned defense conglomerate and a close Mr Putin ally.
French authorities have also seized superyachts, including one believed to belong to Igor Sechin, a Mr Putin ally who runs Russian oil giant Rosneft.
Italy has also seized several yachts and other assets. The move sparked a frenzied rush for yacht owners to leave ports and head to sea to avoid sanctions.
Italian financial police moved quickly seizing the superyacht “Lena” belonging to Gennady Timchenko, an oligarch close to Mr Putin, in the port of San Remo; the 215-foot “Lady M” owned by Alexei Mordashov in nearby Imperia, featuring six suites and estimated to be worth £54 million; as well as villas in Tuscany and Como, according to government officials.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.