The Biden administration intends to sell confiscated Russian superyachts and transfer the proceeds to help Ukraine. The White House is already developing fast track asset forfeiture procedures.
Recent arrests and confiscations
The Biden administration plans to speed up the process of moving seized superyachts through the US judicial system. The goal is to sell assets and transfer the proceeds to Ukraine. Two high-profile arrests of superyachts last week show that the pressure on Russian oligarchs is not abating.
Last Thursday, a judge in Fiji ruled that local law enforcement could confiscate Amadea. Recall that Amadea is a 348-foot superyacht worth $325 million. The judge ruled that the yacht could not leave the island nation. The owner of the yacht is reportedly the oligarch Kerimov.
Kerimov made his fortune at the Russian gold mining company Polyus. Since 2018, he has been on the US sanctions list. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he faces sanctions in Canada, Europe, the UK and other countries.
Superyacht "Scheherazade" was detained on Friday. The yacht had completed months of repairs in dry dock in Tuscany and was preparing to leave Marina di Carrara. The local police, however, did not allow this to be done.
The exact ownership of the yacht will be established. But US officials say it may belong to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Italy's finance ministry said on Friday that its investigation had identified the owner.
What does Biden want to do?
The White House plans to sell the yachts and donate the proceeds to Ukraine, several maritime lawyers have said it's not easy. Existing laws regarding the seizure of assets have a number of points. “The current situation is unprecedented,” said Benjamin Maltby, a partner at the UK-based law firm Keystone Law.
Maltby adds: “The United States and Western countries have significant powers to seize property. However, the US has less authority to keep it. The reason is that these countries are bound by property rights and due process.” However, the White House has proposed a plan that will simplify and speed up the process for the US authorities to seize the assets of the oligarchs.
The White House press release says it will create "new bodies" in the Justice and Treasury departments. This will simplify and speed up the process. The new proposal would also allow the seizure of property that was used to "facilitate sanctions evasion," which would change current US law.
At the same time, new administrative procedures continue to be developed. Yacht arrests are expected to continue and possibly accelerate.
Over the past eight weeks, authorities in Italy, France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Finland have seized dozens of other yachts. The oligarchs' largest yacht is the 512-foot Dilbar, which was officially confiscated in Hamburg on April 13. Its estimated cost is between 600 and 700 million dollars.
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