Fiji’s supreme court ruled today that US authorities must remove the Russian-owned superyacht Amadea from its territorial waters. The US has been seeking final approval from local authorities to seize and remove the yacht since April.
The US Justice Department’s Taskforce KleptoCapture is the government body that has been pursuing the case, arguing that the yacht belongs to Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, who is on the US sanctions list. The 350-foot Amadea arrived to the island country on April 13 following an 18-day voyage from Mexico.
It had been impounded by Fiji’s authorities after the country’s High Court granted a US warrant for its seizure, but then a court of appeals delayed the motion while lawyers for the registered owner, Millemarin Investments, argued it was owned by another Russian oligarch, Eduard Khudainatov.
The vessel, valued at $300 million, has estimated operating and maintenance costs of about $30 million per year. The US told Fiji authorities it would foot the bill after it left that country’s waters.
Reuters reported that the Fiji Supreme Court ruled today that public interest demands the yacht “sail out of Fiji waters,” because having it berthed in Fiji was “costing the Fijian Government dearly,” according to the judgement.
The vessel “sailed into Fiji waters without any permit and most probably to evade prosecution by the United States,” it added.
Last month, another luxury yacht, the $700 million Scheherazade, which is reportedly owned by Khudainatov and has links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was impounded by police in Italy.
“The decision acknowledges Fiji’s commitment to respecting international mutual assistance requests and Fiji’s international obligations,” said Fiji’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde in a statement.
Pryde added that the court ruled that “issues concerning money laundering and ownership” need to be decided in the originating US court. “The Amadea has been handed over to US authorities and will now leave Fiji,” he said.