Russian oligarch’s yacht seized in Fiji on US request

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Authorities in Fiji have seized the $300 million yacht of Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov after the US Justice Department requested the vessel be held for violating sanctions and for alleged ties to corruption, the department said Thursday.

The five-year-old, 348-foot (106 meter) “Amadea” was berthed in Lautoka, Fiji in the South Pacific when local authorities took control of it based on a US warrant and a Justice Department request.

“The Amadea is subject to forfeiture based on probable cause of violations of US law, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, money laundering and conspiracy,” the department said in a statement.

Kerimov is among a group of Russian oligarchs “who profit from the Russian government through corruption and its malign activity around the globe, including the occupation of Crimea,” the department said.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin as part of a wave of economic punishment for the attack on Ukraine.

Kerimov, who has made a fortune as part owner of major Russian energy and financial companies including Gazprom and Sberbank, is also an official of the Russian government and a member of the Russian Federation Counsel, it said.

“There is no hiding place for the assets of criminals who enable the Russian regime,” US At-torney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

“The Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to hold accountable those who facilitate the death and destruction we are witnessing in Ukraine,” Garland said.

The European Union’s (EU) top official on Wednesday called on the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia and target the country’s biggest bank and major broadcasters in a sixth package of sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, proposed having EU member nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.

“We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimises the impact on global markets,” Von der Leyen said.

The proposals must be unanimously approved to take effect and are likely to be the subject of fierce debate.

Von der Leyen conceded that getting all 27 member countries — some of them landlocked and highly dependent on Russia for energy supplies — to agree on oil sanctions “will not be easy”.

The EU gets about 25 per cent of its oil from Russia, most of which goes toward gasoline and diesel for vehicles. Russia supplies about 14pc of diesel, S&P Global analysts said, and a cutoff could send already high prices for truck and tractor fuel towering.

If approved, the ban on oil imports would be the second package of EU sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry since the country invaded Ukraine on February 24.—AFP