The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that, on Monday, April 4, Spanish law enforcement executed a Spanish court order freezing the Motor Yacht (M/Y) Tango (the Tango), a 255-foot luxury yacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
According to the DOJ, Spanish authorities acted pursuant to a request from the DOJ for assistance following the issuance of a seizure warrant, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, which alleged that the Tango was subject to forfeiture based on violation of US bank fraud, money laundering and sanction statutes.
DOJ said that, separately, seizure warrants obtained in the US District Court for the District of Columbia target approximately $625,000 associated with sanctioned parties held at nine US financial institutions. Those seizures are based on sanctions violations by several Russian specially designated nationals.
The US investigation alleges that Vekselberg bought the Tango in 2011 and used shell companies to hide his interest in the Tango to avoid bank oversight into US dollar transactions related thereto.
In addition, the DOJ said that, after Vekselberg was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department on April 6, 2018, Vekselberg and those working on his behalf allegedly continued to make US dollar payments through US 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.
Reacting to the seizure, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said that “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.”
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.
Attorney General Garland warned.
“Today we announce another example of the FBI using our worldwide presence and partnerships, as well as our expertise and experience, to track and seize illicit money and assets, to counter threats to our safety and national security,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “We will continue to use every lawful tool to go after designated Russian oligarchs’ assets – however and wherever they hide them.”
The seizure was coordinated through the Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures that the United States has imposed, along with its allies and partners, in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine.
“Today’s seizure of Viktor Vekselberg’s yacht, the Tango, in Spain is the result of an unprecedented multinational effort to enforce US sanctions targeting those elites who have enabled Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine,” said Director Andrew Adams of Task Force KleptoCapture. “For those who have tied their fortunes to a brutal and lawless regime, today’s action is a message that those nations dedicated to the rule of law are equally dedicated to separating the oligarchs from their tainted luxuries. This seizure is only the beginning of the Task Force’s work in this global effort to punish those who have and continue to support tyranny for financial gain.”
“The FBI will continue to work with its partners to protect the integrity of the banking system and support the enforcement of sanctions programs,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael F. Paul of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office. “FBI agents and analysts, regardless of where they are assigned around the world, will work tirelessly to ensure those who attempt to evade sanctions are held accountable.”
The Tango, International Maritime Organization number 1010703, is believed to be worth approximately $90 million or more. The yacht is now in Mallorca.
The matter of the Tango is being investigated by the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office with assistance from the HSI New York Field Office.
Footage of seizure below: