A yacht belonging to a Russian billionaire that was seized by the US under the pretext of sanctions enforcement in May 2022 is costing the US $7 million per year to maintain.
According to Reuters, the US seized the $300 million Amadea in Fiji under a warrant alleging it was owned by Suleiman Kerimov, a Russian billionaire who was sanctioned by the US in 2014 and 2018.
The US wants to auction off the Amadea and give the money to Ukraine, but that is being challenged in court by Eduard Khudainatov, the former CEO of Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft, who is not under US sanctions.
Khudainatov says the yacht is actually his, and the US is accusing him of acting as a “straw owner” to cover for Kerimov. In October 2023, Khudainatov filed federal court papers in San Diego, where the Amadea is currently docked, asserting he owned the yacht and saying it couldn’t be sold off since he’s not under US sanctions.
The Reuters report said that US federal prosecutors said in a court filing issued on Friday that the $600,000 bill the US is paying to maintain the Amadea is “excessive” and justifies an auction. Lawyers for Khudainatov said the US attempt to sell the yacht was “premature” and that they would urge the judge presiding over the case to deny it until he “determines whether the seizure was unconstitutional.”
The US attempt to sell the yacht is part of its strategy to steal Russian assets to give more money to the Ukrainian government. So far, the Department of Justice has facilitated the transfer of about $5.4 million in assets seized from Russian billionaires to Ukraine.
The big prize for the US and Ukraine is the $300 billion in Russian central bank funds that were frozen by the US and its allies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The White House recently threw its support behind a plan to give money to Ukraine to pay for the proxy war, but the US needs the EU’s backing for the idea, and it’s unclear if that will happen.