Vekselberg had been sanctioned by the United States since 2018, and the Justice Department alleged on Monday that Tango also violated U.S. bank fraud and money laundering laws. The seizure is the first action by the US government’s interagency KleptoCapture task force, established last month as part of an increased effort to enforce sanctions.
“Today’s action makes it clear that corrupt Russian oligarchs cannot escape punishment to live a life of luxury while innocent Ukrainians suffer,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement. “This commitment is one that we have not finished honoring.”
The US investigation describes Vekselberg as the continuous owner of Tango since 2011 and that the Russian tycoon used shell companies associated with the boat to avoid banking surveillance of US transactions. Vekselberg, whose net worth exceeds $9 billion, donated to American cultural institutions, including Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York, before being sanctioned.
“Sanctions end up frustrating the ultimate beneficiaries both financially and emotionally,” said Sam Tucker, superyacht manager at VesselsValue, a yacht data service, in a recent interview with POLITICO. “Yachts already moored in these jurisdictions would have already been frozen, and any yachts not in these waters, of which there are many, must now find alternative arrangements in the ongoing cat-and-mouse battle where the cats are multiply.”
VesselsValue data retrieved by POLITICO identified 65 superyachts believed to have Russian owners. The data did not reveal that Tango was a yacht owned by a Russian oligarch, who notes that there are no other boats linked to the Vekselberg name. If he owns another yacht, it may not be disclosed, VesselsValue said.
So far, a dozen superyachts have been seized since the announcement of sanctions against the Russian elite in early March.
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