Where do you take your $100 million megayacht to make sure the U.S. can’t seize it, and other questions Russian oligarchs are asking themselves

March 1, 2022, 6:34 PM UTC

Russian oligarchs are worried the increasing sanctions imposed by the West are coming for their superyachts, and they’re scrambling to stash them somewhere safe.

The U.S. is attempting to identify and crack down on sanctioned Russian companies and oligarchs after Russia invaded Ukraine last week, writing in a tweet on Feb. 26 that it had assembled a multilateral transatlantic task force to “identify, hunt down, and freeze the assets.”

At least four superyachts owned by Russian business leaders have set sail for Montenegro and the Maldives in recent days, according to data from Marine Traffic, and first reported by CNBC. Neither country has an extradition treaty with the U.S, making them relatively safe spots to hide a megayacht. 

One of the yachts seen floating near the shore of the Maldives, off the coast of India, on Marine Traffic is the Ocean Victory—the 12th-longest yacht in the world at 140 meters, owned by Russian iron and steel magnate Viktor Rashnikov. The ship is moored a couple miles from the 88.5-meter-long Nirvana yacht, owned by Vladimir Potanin, the wealthiest man in Russia. The two boats will be joined by Russian industrialist Oleg Deripaska’s 72.6 meter yacht Clio, which is expected to arrive from Sri Lanka in the next couple of days, according to Marine Traffic.  

Meanwhile, over in Europe, Vagit Alekperov, president and chairman of Russia energy company Lukoil, has also sent his yacht, Galactica Super Nova, from Barcelona to Montenegro, a small country next to Albania. Alekperov has fair reason to worry about his 70-meter yacht. Since the sanctions began, he saw the sharpest decline in his net worth compared to other Russian billionaires, which fell by $6.2 billion in one day to $13 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

What sanctions are they facing?

Sanctions against Russia’s high-net-worth individuals began last Friday, when the U.S. government sanctioned five Russians who are members of elite families by barring them from accessing any property or engaging in any transactions in the U.S.

“Elites close to Putin continue to leverage their proximity to the Russian president to pillage the Russian state, enrich themselves, and elevate their family members into some of the highest positions of power in the country at the expense of the Russian people,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.

The U.K. followed suit and froze the assets of 100 individuals the following day, and also capped the amount Russians can deposit into U.K. bank accounts.

The EU put 26 Russians on its sanctions list on Monday, including some of Vladimir Putin’s closest confidants. The sanctioned billionaires will have their assets and funds frozen and they will not be allowed to enter or transit through the EU. 

It is unclear who will be a part of the U.S.’s multilateral transatlantic task force.

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