New U.S. task force seizes Russian oligarch's $90-million yacht in first asset seizure

Yacht from above.
Yacht from above. Photo credit Getty Images

On Monday, United States law enforcement officials seized the $90-million yacht Tango that belongs to a Russian oligarch with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Spanish law enforcement agents worked with the U.S. to capture the ship belonging to Viktor Vekselberg after the U.S. Justice Department obtained a warrant. The boat was anchored in the Spanish island of Palma de Mallorca.

Vekselberg, 64, who has an estimated net worth of $6 billion, had the ship made specifically for him and sent it to Spain to be repaired. When the Spanish government was made aware the yacht was there, they alerted the U.S. Justice Department to its location on March 13, the warrant says.

Vekselberg was previously sanctioned by the U.S. government in 2018 and again last month when Russia began waging war on Ukraine.

The sanctions stop Vekselberg from participating in the U.S. economy and prevent him from using American banks to conduct business transactions.

As far back as 2011, the warrant said that Vekselberg and other unnamed conspirators paid for the yacht through shell companies and other money laundering techniques, attempting not to be detected by the U.S.

"Vekselberg and those acting on his behalf and for his benefit caused U.S. dollar transactions for the Tango to be sent through U.S. financial institutions, after a time which Vekselberg was designated by the Treasury Department," the warrant alleges.

After notifying the U.S., Spanish prosecutors obtained a "freezing" order on the Tango, giving U.S. officials the ability to seize the ship.

The Justice Department has announced a new task force named KleptoCapture which will work to hold sanctioned Russian elites accountable.

The seizing of Vekselberg's ship on Monday was one of the first operations conducted by the group, and Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke about it after the operation was completed Monday.

"Today marks our task force's first seizure of an asset belonging to a sanctioned individual with close ties to the Russian regime. It will not be the last," Garland said. "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."

Now, through the task force, Veksleberg and other Russian elites will begin feeling the heat as Russia continues to wage war on Ukraine.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images