A Fiji court has ruled in favour of the United States in its bid to seize a superyacht linked to Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov.
The ruling, handed down on Monday, came 21 days after the Amadea arrived in Fiji and was detained by police.
In the High Court in Suva, Justice Deepthi Amaratunga granted the US application to seize the vessel.
But he also gave the defence time to apply for a stay order which counsel for the Amadea, Faizal Hanif, asked the court on the judge’s ruling.
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Monday’s ruling also means the vessel will remain in Fiji.
“There is some indication that American authorities are wanting to take this boat away,” Faizal told journalists outside the court.
“The judge said we have a right to appeal, and obviously he said that we will ensure that the boat is in Fiji while the stay application is filed.”
Until the matter is resolved, the 106-metre mega yacht worth US$325 million (NZ$500m) yacht will remain berthed at Lautoka Wharf with a police officer onboard to ensure it doesn’t leave Fiji.
A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kerimov has also been sanctioned by the US and European Union over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
New Zealand and Australia have both been critical of the war with Aotearoa imposing sanctions on 18 financial entities, said Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
US authorities claimed the Amadea is owned by Kerimov, reportedly worth more than US$4 billion (NZ$6b).
The Amadea’s legal team is contesting that Kerimov is its owner. Registration records reportedly showed the yacht was registered to Millemarin Investment Limited in the Cayman Islands.
Hanif told the High Court in Suva last week that the vessel’s owner was Eduard Khudaynatov.
But counsel for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), Jayneeta Prasad, said the ownership of the vessel was not an issue.
It was subject to a US warrant and the ownership issue was for the American courts to decide, Prasad said.
The Amadea arrived in Fiji on April 12 after an 18-day voyage across the Pacific from Mexico.
The ODPP filed an application in the High Court in Suva the next day to prevent the superyacht from leaving the country.
A judge granted an order restraining the vessel until the court had considered the US seizure warrant.