US government seizes an oligarch's yacht in Spain

The superyacht Tango was seized today by a joint operation between Spain’s Civil Guard and the FBI. Tango is a 255 ft. yacht with an estimated value of $120 million. It is believed to belong to Viktor Vekselberg, who has been under investigation in the US.


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…

The yacht sails under Cook Islands flag and is owned by a company registered in the British Virgin Islands administered by different societies in Panama, the Civil Guard said, “following a complicated financial and societal web to conceal its truthful ownership.”

Agents confiscated documents and computers inside the yacht that will be analyzed to confirm he real identity of the owner, it said.

A DOJ press release says Vekselberg has been hiding his ownership of the yacht to avoid US sanctions which have been in place since 2018:

According to documents filed in this case, the U.S. investigation alleges that Vekselberg bought the Tango in 2011 and has owned it continuously since that time. It further alleges that Vekselberg used shell companies to obfuscate his interest in the Tango to avoid bank oversight into U.S. dollar transactions related thereto. Additionally, after Vekselberg was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department on April 6, 2018, the warrant alleges that Vekselberg and those working on his behalf 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. Vekselberg had an interest in these payments and therefore a license was required from the Treasury Department, which was not obtained.

“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,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.


Here’s what the Tango looks like:

As AG Garland said, this is the first US seizure of a Russian superyacht. However, it’s not the only one where the US has requested a yacht be arrested. Last week, the US asked the Dominican Republic to prevent superyacht Flying Fox from leaving. US authorities were then seen going on board.

It has been reported that agents from the US Homeland Security Investigations Office (HSI), who were joined by representatives of the Dominican Republic’s customs authorities and a variety of other agencies, boarded Flying Fox on 25 March.

“The seizure of MY Flying Fox in the port of Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, last Friday, is significant not only because of the size of the vessel but because this is the first time that authorities in a country seeking to freeze assets have seized a vessel located outside their own jurisdiction,” explains Benjamin Maltby, partner at Keystone Law.

Flying Fox is one of the largest yachts in the world and is believed to belong to Russian oligarch Dmitry Kamenshchik who manages Russian airports. It’s the largest rental yacht in the world and was rented last fall by Jay Z and Beyonce to celebrate her 40th birthday at an estimated cost of nearly $4 million per week. Here’s a photo they took aboard the ship which wound up on Instagram.

One sign of just how confusing the ownership of these yachts can be is that many stories were written about Beyonce’s 40th aboard the Flying Fox and several list Jeff Bezos as the yacht’s owner. That’s not true apparently but I’m sure Dmitry Kamenshchik appreciated the rumors which kept his name out of the media. Here’s a clip showing the exterior and interior of Flying Fox.


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