U.S. makes first Russian oligarch yacht seizure

The U.S. government aided Spanish authorities in seizing the yacht of a Russian oligarch, the first such seizure after a pledge by President Biden to go after elites’ “ill-begotten gains.”

The 255-foot Tango is the property of Viktor Vekselberg, a Putin ally that helms Renova Group, a metals and mining conglomerate who was first sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018. Authorities boarded the vessel at a marina in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

According to a court filing from the Department of Justice, Vekselberg used shell companies to obfuscate his interest in the Tango to avoid U.S. bank oversight.

“Today marks our taskforce’s first seizure of an asset belonging to a sanctioned individual with close ties to the Russian regime. It will not be the last,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

“Together, with our international partners, we will do everything possible to hold accountable any individual whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war.”

The Department of Justice created the KleptoCapture task force a week into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a counterpart to its participation on the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) task force started just days into the conflict.

The U.S. will still have to go to court to legally take possession of the yacht.

Making such cases in court can provide difficult, as authorities must prove ownership of what can be a complex web of holdings through shell companies and sometimes allies.

Beyond the seizure of the yacht, officials also filed warrants for $625,000 in banks held by other sanctioned parties.

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