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Russian luxury yacht seized by US arrives in San Diego

Posted at 11:27 AM, Jun 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-27 20:05:17-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – A $300 million luxury yacht owned by a sectioned Russian oligarch was seized by the United States in Fiji and arrived at NAS North Island on Monday.

The Amadea was owned by Suleiman Kerimov, a sanctioned Oligarch and beneficiary of Russian corruption.

The yacht was a target of the Task Force KleptoCaptureto seize the assets of Russian Oligarchs to place pressure on Russia to end the war in Ukraine, according to the Associated Press.

“After a transpacific journey of over 5,000 miles, the Amadea has safely docked in a port within the United States, and will remain in the custody of the U.S. government, pending its anticipated forfeiture and sale,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.

"The successful seizure and transport of Amadea would not have been possible without extraordinary cooperation from our foreign partners in the global effort to enforce U.S. sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine. We hope to make additional footage of the Amadea available at a later date,” the Justice Department said.

After the Amadea's arrival in San Diego, ABC 10News spoke with author and former CIA Officer Alex Finley, who has written extensively about Russian oligarchs and their penchant for lavish yachts. “They are allowed to loot and steal from Russia as long as they support Putin," Finley said. "And one of the things that they love to spend their money on is yachts.”

Finley says their is competition among the billionaire business moguls that run Russian industry under Putin. That has led to an arms race, so to speak, to build bigger, more luxurious, more tech-savvy yachts. But Finley also says recently unveiled evidence indicates that the yachts are more than just a status symbol. “It looks like there’s some sort of infrastructure around these yachts and services for the yachts that, perhaps, is helping launder some of the money.” Finley says documents released when Amadea was seized included mentioning money laundering as a key reason why the yacht was targeted.

Finley, who has written a series of spy novels since leaving the CIA, says after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a community of amateur sleuths began using crowdsourcing and public navigation tracking apps to try to identify yachts owned by Russian oligarchs, who were, at the same time, trying to move them away from ports where they could be seized. The group rallied around the hashtag #YachtWatch.