A Russian-owned superyacht was ordered to leave Fiji for the US after a court upheld a FBI warrant.
The vessel allegedly sailed to Fiji to escape seizure.
US police had for months been tracking the 350ft Amadea – linked to sanctioned oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.
Agents had boarded the boat upon its arrival in Fiji in April, but the boat’s owner had launched a legal battle to stop the seizure.
They had argued the warrant contravened the Pacific island’s local law.
However on June 7, Fiji’s Supreme Court dismissed that argument and ordered the boat’s removal, pointing out the giant yacht’s docking in the port of Lautoka had cost the local government “dearly”.
US authorities in their submission had argued that the $300 million boat was estimated to cost about $25-30 million to keep running per year.
For the public benefit, it was better for the boat to be removed, Chief Justice Kamal Kumar said.
The judge found the vessel had sailed into Fiji waters “without any permit and most probably to evade prosecution by the United States”.
The defence team for the boat’s registered owners, Millemarin Investments, had argued the boat was not the property of Suleiman Kerimov’s and instead belonged to another Russian businessman, who is not facing sanctions.
However, US authorities allege that Suleiman Kerimov still has a beneficial connection to the boat.
The FBI alleged the boat had also tried to escape detection “almost immediately” after the war began by turning off its automated tracking system.
US authorities first sanctioned Suleiman Kerimov in 2018 over a slew of money-laundering charges. The Russian has been sanctioned by other nations since, including by the EU block after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On June 7, Fiji’s Director of Public Prosecutions said the court ruling demonstrated his nation’s commitment to external assistance requests and international law.
The court accepted the validity of the US warrant and agreed that issues concerning money laundering and ownership need to be decided in the court of original jurisdiction,” said Christopher Pryde.
Western authorities have stepped up a crackdown on the assets of dozens of Russian oligarchs in the wake of the Ukraine invasion in February.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the allies would stop Russia from “using its war chest,” by paralysing the assets of its central bank. They also agreed to freezing its transactions and prevent the central bank from liquidating its assets.
She added there would be a crackdown on so-called “golden passports” that “let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems”.
UK PM Boris Johnson said Britain had taken “decisive action”, tweeting: “We will keep working together to ensure Putin pays the price for his aggression.”
The measures were agreed by the US, UK, Europe and Canada.
It is the latest round of sanctions to hit Russia since it launched an invasion of Ukraine this week.
Removing banks from Swift is deemed to be a severe curb because almost all banks use the system.
More European countries have closed their airspace to Russian flights, as Moscow faces rising pressure over the invasion of Ukraine.
Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia and Romania announced on February 26 they were banning some flights from Russia.
Russia earlier said it would close its airspace to flights from Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic after they issued a ban on Russian jets.
Meanwhile, Russian-owned planes can no longer enter UK airspace.
Estonian PM Kaja Kallas urged other EU countries to issue similar restrictions on Twitter, adding: “There is no place for planes of the aggressor state in democratic skies.”
Slovenian PM Janez Jansa quoted Kallas’s tweet saying that “Slovenia will do the same”.
Latvian Transport Minister Talis Linkaits also said on Twitter that “Latvia will close its airspace to Russian-registered airlines for commercial flights,” adding that the decision would be formally approved at the next cabinet meeting.
The restriction on Russian flights over large swathes of eastern Europe will require Russian airlines to take circuitous routes.
One Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Budapest on February 26 logged a flight time about 75 minutes longer than usual, according to the Flightradar24 tracking website, with a route avoiding Poland.
Commercial airlines are also avoiding airspace around Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus following Russia’s invasion. As the Kyiv airport is closed, many foreigners stuck in Ukraine cannot return home.
In the United States, Delta Air Lines said it would suspend a code-sharing agreement with Russia’s Aeroflot.
The UK’s ban on Russian flights, including Aeroflot planes and private jets, led Moscow to retaliate with a similar curb on British planes.
Virgin Atlantic said avoiding Russia would add between 15 minutes and an hour to its flights between the UK and India and Pakistan.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.