The and Spanish authorities seized mega yacht Monday owned by oligarch and friend Viktor Vekselberg – amid calls for even tighter sanctions on Russia following new discoveries of atrocities outside .
The 254-foot vessel was docked in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of ´s Balearic Islands and a playground and tax haven for the wealthy.
The seizure was a joint operation including FBI and Homeland Security Investigations as well as Spain’s Civil Guard carried out at the request of U.S.authorities.
The seizure was the the first in the U.S. government’s sanctions initiative to ‘seize and freeze’ giant vessels and other pricey assets of Russian elites in an effort to turn up pressure on Putin in response to the invasion.
It came hours after new horrors emerged from the suburb of Bucha outside Kyiv, Ukrainian forces who pushed back Russian invaders discovered bodies of Ukrainian citizens shot dead in the street, some with their hands tied behind their backs.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called it ‘genocide,’ and there was a new push within the Biden administration for tougher sanctions.
‘I’m going to continue to add more sanctions,’ President Joe Biden said Monday as he arrived from his home in Delaware to Washington. He repeated his assessment that Putin had committed ‘war crimes,’ but stopped short of saying Russia had committed genocide.
The FBI and Spanish authorities seized a mega yacht belonging to oligarch Viktor Vekselberg on Monday, amid calls to further tighten sanctions on Russia
The U.S.is also pushing to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council – the panel charged with exposing abuses like the kind being uncovered amid Russia’s war on Ukraine. The move would require a two-thirds vote of the UN General Assembly.
A Civil Guard source said the immobilized yacht is Tango, a vessel flagged in the Cook Islands that Superyachtfan.com, a specialized website that tracks the world´s largest and most exclusive recreational boats, values at $120 million.
The Justice Department put the value lower, at $90 million, in its official release.
The yacht is among the assets linked to Viktor Vekselberg, a billionaire and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate encompassing metals, mining, tech and other assets, according to U.S.Treasury Department documents.
All of Vekselberg´s assets in the U.S. are frozen and U.S. companies are forbidden from doing business with him and his entities.
While Vekselberg has not been sanctioned by the European Union, he is under investigation in the U.S.for possible tax fraud, money laundering and falsifying documents precisely to hide the ownership of the Tango yacht, the Civil Guard said in a statement.
According to the Superyachtfan web site, the ship has 7 cabins and can sleep up to 14 guests, with a crew of 22.There are no available interior photos – although it has four 1,730 hp diesel engines and can make 22 knots.
According to the Justice Department, a warrant for the seizure alleged ‘that the Tango was subject to forfeiture based on violation of U.S.bank fraud, money laundering, and sanction statutes. Separately, seizure warrants obtained in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia target approximately $625,000 associated with sanctioned parties held at nine U.S. financial institutions.’
Documents filed in the case allege that Vekselberg ‘used shell companies to obfuscate his interest in the Tango to avoid bank oversight into U.S.dollar transactions.’
He was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2018, but ‘continued to make U.S. dollar payments through U.S. banks for the support and maintenance of the Tango and its owners, including a payment for a December 2020 stay at a luxury water villa resort in the Maldives and mooring fees for the yacht.’
‘Today’s action makes clear that corrupt Russian oligarchs cannot evade sanctions to live a life of luxury as innocent Ukrainians are suffering,’ said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O.Monaco. She said DOJ was delivering ‘on our commitment to hold accountable those whose criminal activity strengthens the Russian government as it continues to wage its unjust war in Ukraine. That commitment is one we are not finished honoring.’
Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of the Board of Directors of Renova Group, is friends with Russian President Vladimir Putin
A U.S.federal agent and two Civil Guards board the yacht called Tango in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Monday April 4, 2022. U.S. federal agents and Spain’s Civil Guard are searching the yacht owned by oligarch Viktor Vekselberg