The U.S. government on Monday seized a 254-foot yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a first by the Biden administration under sanctions imposed after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine and targeting pricey assets of Russian elites.
Spain’s Civil Guard and U.S. federal agents descended on the Tango at the Marina Real in the port of Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Associated Press reporters at the scene saw police going in and out of the boat.
The U.S. Justice Department, which obtained a warrant from a federal judge in Washington, alleges the yacht should be forfeited for violating U.S. bank fraud, money laundering, and sanctions statutes.
Superyachtfan.com, a specialized website that tracks the world’s largest and most exclusive recreational boats, values the 78-meter vessel, which carries the Cook Islands flag, at $120 million USD.
The yacht is among the assets linked to Viktor Vekselberg, a billionaire and close Putin ally who heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate encompassing metals, mining, tech, and other assets, according to U.S. Treasury Department documents.
All of Vekselberg’s assets in the United States are frozen and American companies are barred from doing business with him and his entities. The Ukrainian-born businessman built his fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era.
Prosecutors allege Vekselberg bought the Tango in 2011 and has owned it since then, though they believe he has used shell companies to try to obfuscate his ownership and to avoid financial oversight.
They contend Vekselberg and those working for him continued to make payments using U.S. banks to support and maintain the yacht, even after sanctions were imposed on him in 2018. Those payments included a stay in December 2020 at a luxury water villa resort in the Maldives and fees to moor the yacht.