US seizes its first oligarch mega-yacht in Putin’s raid

A giant yacht owned by a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Vladimir Putin was reportedly seized in Spain on Monday as part of the government’s sanctions initiative to “seize and freeze” major assets linked to Russian elites.

The megayacht is among assets linked to Viktor Vekselberg, a billionaire who runs a Moscow-based conglomerate that controls metals, mining and engineering assets, according to US Treasury Department documents.

In the Marina Real in the port of Palma de Mallorca, a large group of Spanish Civil Guards and US federal agents boarded the boat, according to Associated Press reporters who were at the scene early Monday morning and saw the authorities.

Mr. Vekselberg’s US assets remain frozen and American companies are barred from doing business with him and his companies.

The seizure was confirmed by two people familiar with the matter. People could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity. A spokesman for the Spanish Civil Guard confirmed that officers from Spain’s police and FBI were at the marina searching the ship Monday morning and said more details would be released later.

Spain yacht sanctions by US oligarch

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The move is the first time the US government has impounded an oligarch’s yacht since Attorney General Merrick Garland and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen put together a task force called REPO – short for Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs – to seek post-Russian sanctions enforce Ukraine in late February.

Earlier this month, the US Treasury Department also identified a $90 million private jet belonging to the Russian businessman and marked it as “locked property”.

The yacht, named Tango, has an estimated combined value with the private plane of $180 million, according to SwissInfo.

The US Treasury Department issued a statement earlier this month accusing the Russian businessman of acting on behalf of the Russian president and supporting the country’s tech sector through his holding company Renova, it said.

“Vekselberg has close ties with top GoR officials, including Putin and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (Medvedev). Medvedev personally appointed Vekselberg as Director and President of the Skolkovo Foundation (SF), a GoR initiative aimed at creating a Russian version of Silicon Valley in order to increase Russia’s international status as a leading innovation center for technological developments .

“Furthermore, Vekselberg has participated in Russian diplomatic and soft power activities on behalf of the Kremlin.”

Mr. Vekselberg has long-standing ties to the US, including a green card he once held and homes in New York and Connecticut. The Ukrainian-born businessman originally built his fortune investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era, and his Renova Group, founded more than three decades ago, holds the largest stake in United Co. Rusal, Russia’s largest aluminum producer .

In 2018, the 64-year-old was among oligarchs sanctioned by the US over Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea, among other things, with assets frozen between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, according to Reuters.

With files from Associated Press

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