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By Stephanie Baker
(Bloomberg) –The US Treasury removed an abandoned $120 million Russian superyacht from its sanctions list, clearing the way for the vessel to be auctioned to the highest bidder.
The 267-foot Alfa Nero, replete with a baby grand piano and Miro painting, was ditched in Antigua’s Falmouth Harbor in March 2022 after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Last year, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on Russian fertilizer billionaire Andrey Guryev, naming him as the owner of Alfa Nero, an allegation the magnate denies.
Facing a mountain of unpaid bills, the government of Antigua formally seized the superyacht in April and asked the US Treasury to lift sanctions on the vessel so it could sell it.
The delisting “underscores the United States’ commitment to work closely with international partners to deprive Russian oligarchs and elites of their assets and the proceeds of their wealth,” a Treasury spokesperson said in a statement.
Since the war began in February 2022, the US and its allies have imposed sanctions on dozens of wealthy Russians, leading to the freezing of more than two dozen superyachts worth about $4 billion in ports around the world.
The US said Guryev reportedly bought Alfa Nero in 2014 for $120 million and sent FBI agents to search the vessel last August alongside local law enforcement. A lawyer for Guryev has said he doesn’t own the superyacht but used it “from time to time” since 2014.
Antiguan officials have said they’ve already received 20 bids for Alfa Nero, which will be the first Russian-linked superyacht to be removed from US sanctions and sold at auction. Antigua’s Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin told Bloomberg the government would keep the proceeds for “domestic purposes” and not share the funds with Ukraine.
Bills have been piling up since Antigua formally seized the superyacht in April, with crew expenses alone costing $112,000 a month. Its normal crew of 44 has been reduced to six. Twenty-five members have sued to recover $2.1 million in unpaid wages, according to Craig Jacas, a local lawyer representing them.
© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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