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Police, US agents searching oligarch’s yacht in Spain

AP Photo/Francisco Ubilla
Saul Loeb/Pool via Associated Press

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (AP) — U.S. federal agents and Spain’s Civil Guard were searching a yacht owned by a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Russian president on Monday off a Mediterranean Island.

The law enforcement officers descended on the yacht at the Marina Real in the port of Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Associated Press reporters at the scene saw police going in and out of the boat on Monday morning.

A Spanish Civil Guard spokesman confirmed that officers from the Spanish police body and from the FBI were at the marina searching the vessel Monday morning and said further details would be released later. The spokesman wasn’t authorized to be named in media reports.

A Civil Guard source told The Associated Press that the immobilized yacht is Tango, a 78-meter (254-feet) vessel that carries Cook Islands flag and that Superyachtfan.com, a specialized website that tracks the world’s largest and most exclusive recreational boats, values at $120 million. The source was also not authorized to be named in media reports and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

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.

Vekselberg has long had ties to the U.S., including a green card he once held and homes in New York and Connecticut. The Ukrainian-born businessman built his fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era.

Vekselberg was also questioned in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and has worked closely with his American cousin, Andrew Intrater, who heads the New York investment management firm Columbus Nova.

Vekselberg and Intrater were thrust into the spotlight in the Mueller probe after the attorney for adult-film star Stormy Daniels released a memo that claimed $500,000 in hush money was routed through Columbus Nova to a shell company set up by Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Columbus Nova denied that Vekselberg played any role in its payments to Cohen.

Vekselberg and Intrater met with Cohen at Trump Tower, one of several meetings between members of Trump’s inner circle and high-level Russians during the 2016 campaign and transition.

The 64-year-old mogul founded Renova Group more than three decades ago. The group holds the largest stake in United Co. Rusal, Russia’s biggest aluminum producer, among other investments.

Vekselberg was first sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018, and again in March of this year, shortly after the invasion of Ukraine began. Vekselberg has also been sanctioned by authorities in the United Kingdom.

The U.S. Justice Department and the Treasury Department have launched sanctions enforcement initiatives to “seize and freeze” giant boats and other pricey assets of Russian elites after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

The White House has said that many allied countries, including German, the U.K, France, Italy and others are involved in trying to collect and share information against Russians targeted for sanctions. In his State of the Union address, President Biden warned oligarchs that the U.S. and European allies would “find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets.”

“We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” he said.

Tags Biden Joe Biden Mediterranean Oligarchs Robert Mueller russia Stormy Daniels ukraine Vladimir Putin Yacht

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