Taxpayers From Small Island Nation Foot Bill For Seized Megayacht Owned By Russian Oligarch

(Screenshot / Youtube / SuperYacht Dreamer)

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Jake Smith Contributor
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Citizens of a small island nation are paying for the maintenance of a Russian superyacht that was seized by the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

A $120 million 270-foot superyacht owned by Andrey Grigoryevich Guryev, a Russian business tycoon sanctioned for links to President Vladimir Putin, was raided by the U.S. in the Falmouth Harbour of Antigua and Barbuda last year, according to the WSJ. The yacht, dubbed the Alfa Nero, was seized in a joint effort by the U.S. and Antiguan governments as part of a larger effort to impose economic sanctions against Russia, but it now sits idle where it was initially raided in 2022, and citizens of Antigua and Barbuda are now stuck paying tens of thousands of dollars a week for its continued maintenance. (RELATED: Russian Ruble Strongest It’s Been In Years, Mere Months After Biden Imposes Sanctions)

“You take thousand dollar bills, tear them up, and just keep going,” Tom Paterson, the dock master of the harbor, said to the WSJ.

Taxpayers of Antigua and Barbuda are paying $28,000 a week to maintain the Alfa Nero, even though it has remained stationary for a year, according to the WSJ. The Alfa Nero requires $2,000 a day in diesel to keep the air conditioning running; without it, the boat will grow mold, tarnishing its hardwood floors and a priceless painting.

Russian business tycoon Andrey Guryev’s$120 million super yacht was seized in a joint effort by the U.S. and Antiguan government to impose sanctions against Russia for its war against Ukraine. (Photo by Sebastian Reuter/Getty Images for World Chess)

“There is a market for yachts. There is no market for moldering yachts,” Andrew Adams, former director of KleptoCapture task force, recently said to to U.S. lawmakers, according to the WSJ. “We have to take care to make sure we’re maintaining that value.”

The remaining six crew members of the original 37 that served onboard the yacht have eaten through the boat’s food rations and now work around the clock to ensure it can sail again one day, according to the WSJ. Most of the crew left in droves because they weren’t being paid, and others filed a lawsuit in Antigua, which is enforcing sanctions in concert with the U.S., asking for $2.2 million in unpaid wages.

With the threat of losing the entire crew, who are the only ones who know how to run the yacht and keep it afloat, the Antiguan government agreed to pay the crew and maintenance expenses, which are ultimately paid for by Antigua and Barbuda’s taxpayers, according to the WSJ. The Antiguan government successfully petitioned the U.S. to auction off the boat, but legal blockades imposed by a company linked to Guryev’s daughter have prevented it from being sold thus far.

The troubles surrounding the Alfa Nero and the costs it has imposed on the people of Antigua and Barbuda underscores a larger issue of complications in unloading billions in seized assets as part of the West’s attempt to throttle Russia’s economy, according to the WSJ. The U.S. and foreign governments have jointly seized and frozen approximately $58 billion in Russian oligarch assets, including mansions, investments and yachts, but legal barriers prevent those governments from immediately claiming ownership over the assets, resulting in situations like the Alfa Nero, which sits in limbo as a legal battle plays out between the Antiguan government and a company linked to Guryev.

The goal of seizing Russian assets is to eventually sell them off and give the proceeds to Ukraine’s war effort, according to the WSJ. The U.S. has thus far only been able to send $5.4 million collected from seized assets to Ukraine, and the U.K. and E.U. have so far sent nothing.

The Antigua and Barbuda Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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