Amadea appears in San Diego, flying American flag

Superyacht Amadea (IMO 1012531), linked to Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov and seized by US authorities in Fiji in a controversial legal move, has arrived in San Diego, flying the USA flag.

The Amadea docked in San Diego on Monday morning, June 27th. It had spent a few days in Honolulu after the US hired a new crew and sailed the superyacht out of Fiji on June 7th (IMN June 8th, June 20th).

Its arrival in San Diego could mark the end of a 13,000nm journey as it first attempted to avoid being seized by the several US government agencies that were chasing it. One reason that Fiji agreed to give up the vessel to the US was the significant cost of maintaining it. The US will now bear responsibility for its maintenance and staffing costs. The FBI has estimated this at between $25m and $30m a year.

US President Joe Biden is pushing for legislation, which has got through the Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives, that would allow the US to seize yachts such as the Amadea and other assets of sanctioned Russians, liquidate them, and use those funds to benefit Ukraine. The EU is considering similar measures.

This however raises the further question of who would be willing to buy a seized yacht, given the fact that not all countries might recognize the seizure and transfer of ownership. The locations to which such superyachts could sail might be far more restricted than a person capable of paying $25m-a-year running costs is accustomed to.

Meanwhile back in Fiji the registered owner, Millemarin Investments Ltd, has continued to claim that the vessel is not owned by Kerimov, but by another Russian tycoon — Eduard Khudainatov, the former chairman and CEO of Russian oil and gas giant Rosneft Oil Co, who is not sanctioned. The US and the EU consider Khudainatov as a front owner, given the fact that his declared wealth would not be considered sufficient either to buy or even to maintain such a luxury vessel.

Fiji now says that any legal challenges over ownership will have to be resolved in US rather than Fijian courts.

The US and other governments are likely face years of court disputes after the seizure of any of the superyachts thought to be owned by sanctioned Russian billionaires.

The US alleges that Khudainatov is “being used as a clean, unsanctioned owner” to conceal the Amadea’s true owner. Kerimov is a Russian gold billionaire who was first sanctioned by Washington in 2018.

The US claims that layers of offshore shell companies were created to conceal the fact that Kerimov is the beneficial owner, with crew members giving code names for the sanctioned billionaire and his family members, according to a US affidavit reported earlier by Bloomberg.

Kerimov was sanctioned by the UK and the EU in March because of his close ties to President Putin.

The Amadea arrived in Fiji on April 12th after an 18-day journey that took it from the Caribbean to Mexico. Fiji detained the superyacht the following week after the US government requested mutual legal assistance. On May 3rd the Fiji High Court gave the green light for US and local authorities to seize the vessel, but a series of legal challenges from the registered owner then followed.

The US sent officials to Fiji from the US Marshals Service, the FBI, and the US Coast Guard, according to court filings.

2016-built, now USA-flagged, 4,402 gt Amadea is owned by Millemarin Investments Ltd (but see following) care of Imperial Yachts Sarl of Monte Carlo, Monaco. It is entered with American Club (registered owner, National Maritime Services Inc), with cover operational from June 2nd 2022.