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An earlier order preventing the United States from moving the yacht after a warrant is submitted will remain in effect until at least Friday to allow the defense to argue that the boat is actually owned by another non-sanctioned Russian oligarch, the Suva High Court Judge Deepthi Amaratunga said Tuesday.
Fijian authorities believe the Amadea yacht, moored there since April 13, belongs to the Russian president Vladimir Putin ally Suleiman Kerimov who risks sanctions from the US The yacht, in fact, belongs to Eduard Khudainatov, who does not risk sanctions, the defense argued. Khudainatov is the former president and CEO of Rosneft, the state-controlled Russian oil and gas company.
On Friday Amaratunga will decide whether to continue his stay on the seizure of the yacht.
Kerimov was first sanctioned by the United States in 2018 for alleged money laundering and suffered further sanctions following the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.
The boat is registered in the Cayman Islands and is owned by Millemarin Investments Ltd., also based in the Cayman Islands. The US claims Kerimov is the true owner of Amadea, but ownership can be difficult to determine due to a dark trail of trusts and shell companies.
Fiji also said there should be no need to determine ownership of the ship as it is allegedly linked to a US money laundering case. Reuters reported.
After the yacht arrived in Fiji from Mexico without customs clearance, local authorities prevented it from leaving due to the US mandate.
“We continue to increase the pressure on Putin’s oligarchs and are working with allies and partners to pursue the corrupt gains of some of Putin’s closest individuals, regardless of where they are in the world,” the US embassy in Suva said.
In March, the Justice Department announced the formation of a team to prosecute wealthy Russians or those they help that of Vladimir Putin efforts. Soon after, the US government kidnapped a mega yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch with close ties to the Russian president.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.