US wins latest legal battle over sanctioned superyacht in Fiji

The US has won a victory in the latest round of a legal battle over the fate of the sanctioned superyacht Amadea, which is currently docked at the Fijian port of Lautoka and is restrained from leaving Fijian waters.

An FBI investigation concluded that Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, who is sanctioned by the United States, Britain and the European Union, is the ultimate owner of the 106-metre Lürssen vessel, said to be worth over US$325m.

While it had initially appeared that US officials on the ground would sail away with the yacht and take the issue out of Fijian hands, lawyers for the company that owns Amadea, Millemarin Investments, are contesting claims that Kerimov is the owner, and state that the actual owner is Eduard Khudainatov. Khudainatov is not under any sanctions.

On Friday (27May22) Fiji’s Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by lawyer Feizal Haniff, who represents the company that legally owns the superyacht Amadea. Haniff had been arguing that the USA did not have the jurisdiction to seize the superyacht under Fijian law, until it has been legally established who owns the Cayman-flagged Amadea.

Haniff will reportedly now take the case to the Fijian Supreme Court and will apply for an order that prevents the US from taking Amadea out of Fiji in the meantime.

Amadea arrived in Fiji in mid-April after an 18-day journey from Mexico. Soon after its arrival, Fiji’s High Court granted an application to arrest the yacht, after the US Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, Christopher Pryde, filed a restraining order to stop the superyacht from leaving Fijian waters while authorities worked to formally seize it.

This means, while the US cannot move the yacht out of Fijian waters, Fiji has to fund the maintenance and upkeep of the yacht in port.

MIN reported that the Fiji government had to foot a US$83,000 bill for every day the vessel remained berthed at the Lautoka Port — equivalent to a million Fijian dollars per week.

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