US and Spain seize $90M yacht from sanctioned Russian oligarch
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US and Spain seize $90M yacht from sanctioned Russian oligarch

Spanish and US authorities Monday seized a 254-foot yacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg from a Spanish marina.

Vekselberg operates the Renova Group, an energy conglomerate with operations in metals, mining, tech and other assets. Vekselberg was first sanctioned in 2014 for his role in the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Vekselberg was then sanctioned again as an individual in April 2018 by the US Treasury Department for his operations in Russia’s energy sector. The Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on Vekselberg amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine in March. The US describes Vekselberg as a Russian oligarch with close ties to top Russian officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US has waged a sanctions campaign against Russian individuals and entities. To enforce sanctions against Russian oligarchs like Vekselberg, the US Departments of Justice and Treasury joined in creating the international task force known as the Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs (REPO) in late February. Monday’s yacht seizure was a part of REPO and the interagency US task force assigned with enforcing sanctions, KleptoCapture, efforts.

US authorities obtained a warrant to seize the yacht from a US District Judge in Washington DC. According to an affidavit from an FBI agent, the yacht was seized because it was involved in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering. Allegedly, Vekselberg has used his yacht to continue moving money through US banks, despite the asset freeze in place from the various rounds of US sanctions.

Vekelsberg’s yacht was seized by US FBI agents and Spanish Civil Guard members from the port of Palma de Mallorca, Spain. The yacht is worth an estimated $90 million dollars or more. In a statement following the seizure, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said the seizure was just the first of many. “Together, with our international partners, we will do everything possible to hold accountable any individual whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war,” Garland said.