WASHINGTON (AFP) - The authorities in Fiji have seized the US$300 million (S$416 million) yacht of Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov after the United States Justice Department requested the vessel be held for violating sanctions and for alleged ties to corruption.
The five-year-old, 348-foot (106m) "Amadea" was berthed in Lautoka on the west coast of Fiji in the South Pacific when local authorities took control of it based on a US warrant and a Justice Department request.
"The Amadea is subject to forfeiture based on probable cause of violations of US law, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, money laundering and conspiracy," the department said in a statement on Thursday (May 5).
Mr Kerimov is among a group of Russian oligarchs "who profit from the Russian government through corruption and its malign activity around the globe, including the occupation of Crimea", the statement said.
Mr Kerimov, who has made a fortune as part owner of major Russian energy and financial companies including Gazprom and Sberbank, is also an official of the Russian government and a member of the Russian Federation Council, the statement said.
"There is no hiding place for the assets of criminals who enable the Russian regime," US Attorney-General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
"The Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to hold accountable those who facilitate the death and destruction we are witnessing in Ukraine."
Deputy Attorney-General Lisa Monaco said the department had its eyes "on every yacht purchased with dirty money".
She added: "This yacht seizure should tell every corrupt Russian oligarch that they cannot hide - not even in the remotest part of the world.
"We will use every means of enforcing the sanctions imposed in response to Russia's unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine."
Fijian lawyers acting on behalf of Millemarin Investment, the registered owner of the Amadea, have filed an application for the vessel to be kept in Lautoka where it has been berthed since its arrival in Fiji in the middle of last month.
The Amadea is worth US$325 million and boasts a pool, jacuzzi, helipad, and "winter garden" on the sun deck, according to the website superyachtfan.com, which tracks the vessels of the rich.
Millemarin Investment applied at Fiji's High Court this week to prevent its seizure under the US warrant, pending an appeal against the move.
Fiji's director of public prosecutions said the court would rule on the company's application by Friday.