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Spain seizes Russian oligarch Vekselberg’s superyacht on behalf of U.S.

Spanish authorities impounded a superyacht belonging Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg Monday for U.S. authorities. This is the first time that the United States has taken property belonging to a Russian oligarch after its invasion of Ukraine in Feb.

The 78-meter-long “Tango”, which is worth more than 90 million euros (99 million dollars), was taken in a shipyard in the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.

Spanish police also stated that documents and data storage devices had been taken from the ship by them.

Monday’s statement by the Justice Department stated that the Tango could be forfeited if it is found to have violated U.S. bank fraud, money laundering and sanctions statutes.

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Separately, the prosecutors filed seizure warrants at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for approximately $625,000 in nine U.S. financial institution associated with parties subject to sanctions.

Vekselberg is the billionaire and head of Renova, an aluminium-to energy conglomerate. A spokesperson for Vekselberg did not immediately respond.

Vekselberg does not appear on the European Union’s list of Russian citizens who are subject to sanctions.

He was put under U.S. sanctions for alleged Russian interference during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. 

Vekselberg, according to the seizure warrant is accused of conspiring to commit bank fraud. He is accused of “structuring transactions around the Tango in such an manner as to obfuscate Vekselberg’s ownership interest” in vessel. This tricked U.S. banks into processing transactions.

ns previous litigation against Renova’s founders including Vekselberg dating back to 2001. Vekselberg was accused of being involved in a widespread racketeering scheme and money laundering scheme.”

Monday’s action is the first of many cases that the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force anticipates.

It was launched last month and aims to strain the finances of Russian oligarchs in an effort to force Putin to end his war against Ukraine.

The name of the unit is a play on “kleptocracy”, which refers corrupt officials who abuse power to accumulate wealth. The task force is made up of investigators, prosecutors and analysts from various federal agencies.

“Today is the first time that our task force has taken possession of assets belonging to sanctioned individuals with close ties to Russia. In a video statement, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Galrland stated that it would not be the first.

“We will work together with international partners to hold any person whose criminal acts allow the Russian government to go on its unjustified war.”

Andrew Adams, the head the task force, said that even if the sanctioned vessel is not located in the United States, paying maintenance or insurance using U.S. dollar could subject the vessel to U.S. criminal or civil forfeiture. 

Adams said that forfeiture laws have “some weight in that regard,” in an interview with Reuters last week.

Separately, Spanish authorities have taken three superyachts that were suspected of being belonging to Russians in violation of EU sanctions.

Photo credit Juan Poyates Oliver/Handout 

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