PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (AP) — U.S. federal agents and the Spanish Civil Guard searched a yacht belonging to a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Russian president off a Mediterranean island on Monday.
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 entering and exiting the boat on Monday morning.
A spokesperson for the Spanish Civil Guard confirmed that Spanish police and FBI agents were at the marina to search the vessel on Monday morning and said further details would be released later. The spokesperson was not authorized to be named in the media.
A Civil Guard source told The Associated Press that the yacht immobilized is Tango, a 78-metre (254ft) vessel that flies the flag of the Cook Islands and Superyachtfan.com, a specialist website that tracks boats world’s largest and most exclusive yachts, values at $120 million. The source was also not authorized to be named in the media and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
The yacht is among 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, technology and other assets, documents show. of the US Treasury Department. All of Vekselberg’s assets in the United States are frozen and US companies are prohibited from doing business with him and his entities.
Vekselberg has long had ties to the United States, 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 interviewed as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and worked closely with his US cousin, Andrew Intrater, who runs the company. New York-based investment management firm Columbus Nova.
Vekselberg and Intrater have been thrust into the limelight in the Mueller investigation after adult film star Stormy Daniels’ attorney released a memo claiming $500,000 in silent money had been funneled through Columbus. Nova to a front company set up by Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Columbus Nova denied that Vekselberg played a role in his payments to Cohen.
Vekselberg and Intrater met 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 tycoon founded Renova Group more than three decades ago. The group has the largest stake in United Co. Rusal, Russia’s largest aluminum producer, among other investments.
Vekselberg was first sanctioned by the United States in 2018 and then again in March this year, shortly after the invasion of Ukraine began. Vekselberg was also sanctioned by UK authorities.
The US Department of Justice and the Treasury Department launched sanctions enforcement initiatives to “seize and freeze” giant boats and other expensive Russian elite assets after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.
The White House said many allied nations, including Germany, the UK, France, Italy and others, are trying to collect and share information against sanctioned Russians. In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden warned the oligarch that American and European allies would “find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets.”
“We come for your ill-begotten gains,” he said.
Para reported from Madrid and Balsamo reported from Washington.