On 23 Oct 2023, the U.S. Justice Department initiated the process to forfeit a 348-foot superyacht, the Amadea, claiming it belongs to a sanctioned billionaire oligarch, Suleiman Kerimov, dubbed the “Russian Gatsby.” The $300 million luxury vessel is said to be “beneficially owned” by Kerimov and was allegedly maintained in breach of sanctions imposed on him.
Who is Suleiman Kerimov?
Suleiman Kerimov is a Russian billionaire with close ties to Vladimir Putin’s government in Russia, as well as Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader.
Kerimov has a diverse portfolio of international holdings and investments that brought him immense success as a businessman, investor, and philanthropist. His net worth was estimated by Forbes Magazine at approximately $20.7 billion as of December 2020.
However, Kerimov has also been involved in several controversies. He was placed under sanctions by the U.S. Department of Treasury in April 2018. In the wake of the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Kerimov was sanctioned as a Russian oligarch close to President Putin by the US, UK and EU on March 15, 2022.
Seizing the Superyacht
In May 2022, Fijian law enforcement executed a seizure warrant freezing the Amadea, a 348-foot luxury vessel owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov. Fijian law enforcement, with the support and assistance of the FBI, acted pursuant to a mutual legal assistance request from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The yacht was previously confiscated in Fiji in connection with the Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture‘s efforts targeting assets of sanctioned oligarchs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The U.S. Attorney’s office, under Damian Williams, has filed a civil forfeiture claim in New York, arguing for the yacht’s forfeiture to the U.S. government. The Amadea boasts an array of luxurious amenities, including a helipad, infinity pool, Jacuzzi, and multiple bars.
Kerimov, with an estimated net worth of $14 billion and links to the Russian government, faced U.S. Treasury Department sanctions in 2018 over money laundering accusations. Known for his elusive nature and extravagant lifestyle, Kerimov has thrown lavish parties and owns a collection of luxury cars.
Other Superyacht Owners
However, another oligarch, Eduard Khudainatov, the former CEO of Russia’s state-controlled gas company Rosneft, claims he owns the Amadea and is contesting its seizure. The U.S. Justice Department argues that Khudainatov acts as a “front” owner, alleging he cannot afford the yacht’s maintenance.
Adam Ford, Khudainatov’s attorney, has filed a lawsuit in California, arguing against the government’s valuation of his client’s wealth. Ford expressed confidence in a favorable verdict for his client.
The U.S. has collaborated with multiple countries to confiscate several superyachts linked to oligarchs, often with concealed ownership.
Michael Khoo, co-director of Task Force KleptoCapture, emphasized their determination in conducting intricate, international investigations. He asserted that the move against the Amadea underscores the commitment to hold those disregarding the law accountable.