U.S. trying to seize $325 million superyacht reportedly owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov

Yasmine Salam and Kenzi Abou-Sabe
Russian billionaire, businessman and Council of the Federation Member Suleyman Kerimov attends a meeting at the Naryn Kala Castle, on April 14, 2021 in Derbent, Dagestan, Russia.
Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The U.S. government is attempting to seize a superyacht docked in Fiji that is widely believed to be owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, according to a restraining order application filed by Fijian authorities.

The Amadea yacht is currently "restrained from leaving Fijian waters" until U.S. authorities finalize their warrant to seize the ship, Fiji's public prosecutor Christopher Pryde said in a statement.

The move comes as Western nations have ramped up efforts to seize and freeze assets around the world owned by sanctioned Russian individuals with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kerimov has been sanctioned in the U.S. since 2018. 

Last week, NBC News confirmed the billionaire's reported luxury vessel had arrived in Fiji, as part of a wider investigation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists into how Kerimov and his associates used a maze of corporate structures to obscure his astronomical wealth. 

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The roughly $325 million yacht arrived in Fiji's Lautoka port from Mexico last week, according to MarineTraffic, a maritime analytics company. Ship registration filings show that Amadea is flagged to the Cayman Islands. 

The U.S. embassy said it was cooperating with local authorities in the matter.

"We continue to ratchet up the pressure on Putin's oligarchs and we are working with allies and partners to go after corrupt gains from some of the individuals closest to Putin, no matter where they are held around the world," the embassy said in a statement to ICIJ.

A yacht agent in Fiji who said he was a representative for Amadea told Reuters last week that the ship's lawyers were contesting the assertion that Kerimov owns the vessel. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice declined to comment. 

NBC News' investigation reviewed major financial record leaks — including the Pandora Papers and the FinCEN Files — to illustrate the difficulties Western governments will face in enforcing sanctions against Russian oligarchs like Kerimov. 

While rich people around the world use creative tactics to protect their wealth, the documents revealed the exceptional steps Kerimov and his associates have taken in the past and highlight the challenges ahead for authorities seeking to stem the flow of money to Putin's inner circle. 

Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Kerimov has been hit with additional sanctions by Canada, the U.K. and the E.U. But so far his assets have apparently escaped unscathed.