Authorities seize $90m yacht from Russian oligarch close to strongman Vladimir Putin

US federal agents and Spanish authorities have stormed and seized a $90 million yacht belonging to a Russian oligarch with close ties to Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin.

Video pictures Monday, April 4, the operation on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca showed agents from the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and Spain’s Guardia Civil aboard the moored 255ft yacht owned by billionaire Viktor Feliksovich Vekselberg since 2011.

The Cook Islands-flagged yacht’s automatic identification system transponder remains on and is ping a slide in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the island.

Vekselberg was the subject of the US Treasury Department punishments since April 6, 2018, when former President Donald J. Trump ordered officers to freeze $2 billion in assets held by the oligarch and 23 other Russians following the invasion and annexation of Ukrainian Crimea four years earlier.

Washington, DC prosecutors said they seized the Tango because Vekselberg’s front companies engaged in US bank fraud, money laundering and other methods to evade sanctions. They suspect these Russian entities used US banks to subsidize Vekselberg’s luxury lifestyle and pay for the yacht’s support and maintenance, including a late 2020 rental at a luxury over-water villa resort in the Maldives. which included mooring fees for the vessel.

The warrant issued to support the forfeiture operation remains sealed, but federal investigators said the Tango was targeted by the US Department of Justice’s KleptoCapture task force. The federal task force was launched March 2 to apply sanctions, export controls and other tools of economic warfare against Russia after its February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

“Today marks the first seizure by our task force of property belonging to a sanctioned individual with close ties to the Russian regime. It won’t be the last,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a videotaped address shortly after authorities boarded the yacht. “Together with our international partners, we will do everything we can to hold accountable any individual whose criminal acts allow the Russian government to continue its unjust war.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and businessman Viktor Vekselberg attend a ceremony to unveil the memorial to members of the resistance in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, at the Jewish Museum and Center for tolerance in Moscow on June 4, 2019. Pool photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/AFP via Getty Images.

US and Spanish authorities seized the yacht 10 days before Vekselberg turned 65. In 1990 Vekselberg founded the Renova Group and quickly became an aluminum baron. Renova diversified over the next three decades by gobbling up oil, energy, telecommunications, construction and private equity companies.

Last year Vekselberg complained to reporters that regulators in the United States and Switzerland had frozen $1.5 billion of his assets and he couldn’t even make small charitable donations with the funds.

“Today’s action makes it clear that corrupt Russian oligarchs cannot escape punishment to live a life of luxury while innocent Ukrainians suffer,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a prepared statement. published on Monday. “Today, the Justice Department is delivering on its commitment to hold accountable those whose criminal activities bolster the Russian government as it continues to wage its unjust war in Ukraine. That commitment is one we have not finished. to honor.

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