Fiji’s Court of Appeal rules Russian super yacht will stay in Fiji

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The Russian super yacht Amadea at Lautoka
The Russian super yacht Amadea docked at Lautoka port in Fiji ... subject of US seizure litigation. Image: Baljeet Singh/FT

By Lice Movono, RNZ Pacific correspondent in Suva

Fiji’s Court of Appeal has ruled that the Russian luxury yacht Amadea, seized by the US government but docked in western Fiji, will stay in the country for at least another month.

Defence lawyers acting for the vessel’s registered owners, Millemarin Investment Limited, sought a stay order in the Fiji Court of Appeal after High Court judge Justice Deepthi Amaratunga refused their application.

Haniff and Tuitoga had sought a stay order on his Tuesday ruling to grant Fijian authorities the power to enforce a US Justice Department (DOJ) warrant to seize the Amadea.

The Amadea, which arrived in Fiji on April 12 after an 18-day crossing from Mexico, is according to the US government owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.

Kerimov faces money laundering charges in the US and is also part of a wider network of oligarchs, close associates of the Russian President Vladimir Putin who are sanctioned by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

“The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Kerimov as part of 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 of Justice said in a statement issued Thursday morning in Washington DC.

“According to court documents, Kerimov owned the Amadea after his designation. Additionally, Kerimov and those acting on his behalf and for his benefit caused US dollar transactions to be routed through US financial institutions for the support and maintenance of the Amadea.”

US police boarded boat
On Thursday, Fijian police with US law enforcement who have been in the country since the Amadea arrived in Fiji from Mexico, boarded the yacht.

Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov
Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov … reported to be facing money laundering charges in the US and a close associate of President Vladimir Putin. Image: Wikipedia/RNZ

Justice Amaratunga told the court on Friday afternoon the Fiji Mutual Assistance Act, which facilitated the enforcement of US seizure action, limited his ability to stay his earlier order.

Haniff and Tuitoga lawyers received their stay on Friday evening, keeping the Amadea in Lautoka while they take the 30 days allowed to appeal the ruling to execute US seizure orders.

Meanwhile, the boat has a team of US marshals, the US Coast Guard, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and Fiji police.

The skipper and some crew are believed to still be on the vessel.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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