Russian oligarch Igor Sechin, CEO of oil giant Rosneft, moored the Amore Vero – “true love” in Italian – in the French Mediterranean port of La Ciotat in early January, and he had planned to leave on April 1. -the long superyacht, which can accommodate 14 guests and 28 crew, is worth an estimated $120 million, according to superyacht fana luxury yacht tracking site.

But as invading forces cause widespread destruction in Ukraine, the French finance ministry announcement Thursday that he seized the yacht belonging to Sechin on Wednesday evening. Sechin, who served as Russia’s deputy prime minister between 2008 and 2012, is among the oligarchs who have maintained close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the European Union. Once described by a Moscow journalist as the “Darth Vader” of the nation Sechin is “considered one of the most powerful members of Russia’s political elite”, the EU said this week.

“Thank you to the French customs officers who apply the European Union sanctions against those close to the Russian government,” wrote French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. Twitter.

Sechin’s Amore Vero is among the luxury yachts targeted following the invasion. The fate of the Dilbar, a 512ft superyacht owned by Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, remains uncertain after German authorities refuse a Forbes report that the vessel, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, had been seized. Usmanov was among the Russian elite placed under European sanctions this week.

Russian businessman Roman Abramovich said on March 2 that he would sell Chelsea football club. (Reuters)

Another superyacht, the $600million 461ft Solaris owned by oligarch Roman Abramovich, is one of several Russian yachts docked in Barcelona as Spain continues to investigate possible sanctions.

Amid sanctions and seizure threats from President Biden and other leaders, a handful of luxury yachts owned by Russian billionaires have reportedly reached the Maldives, an Indian Ocean island nation that has no peace treaty. extradition with the United States. Some of the oligarch-owned ships that have headed to the Maldives and Montenegro in recent days are estimated to be worth between $65 million and $150 million each.

The luxury yacht movement comes as the White House and Treasury Department increase the number of Russian oligarchs under US sanctions, aimed at punishing the financial elite close to Putin. Biden said in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night that the United States would join Europe in its efforts to punish Russian oligarchs and “seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets.” .

The Justice Department announced on Wednesday the creation of a “KleptoCapture Task Force” to coordinate federal prosecutors and other investigators in an effort to enforce sanctions against “corrupt Russian oligarchs.” In a series of new sanctions against Russian oligarchs announced Thursday, the National Security Council said all assets of Usmanov, the owner of the Dilbar yacht, which Forbes estimated at more than $15 billion, are “ prohibited for use in the United States and by US persons.

“We come for your ill-begotten gains,” Biden warned the oligarchs this week.

President Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1 focused heavily on the United States’ role and response to Russia’s continued attacks in Ukraine. (Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

Questions have been raised about whether it is legal for the US government to seize yachts from Russian oligarchs because of their ties to Putin. As Philip Bump of the Washington Post wrote, Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution gives the federal government authority to issue documents authorizing individuals to lawfully seize foreign vessels. While the practice known as privateering is archaic, the idea has arisen in recent decades. Perhaps the most notable example came after the September 11 terrorist attacks, when the then Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) law Project which would allow the privateers to “seize the person and property of Osama bin Laden and any other responsible individual”.

Global Intelligence Group Data Marine traffic shows that several yachts belonging to Russian oligarchs have headed for the Maldives and Montenegro in recent days. According to ship tracking data, two pleasure boats belonging to aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska and iron and steel tycoon Alexander Abramov entered waters near Malé, the capital of the Maldives, on Wednesday.

The Clio – 238 feet long with nine guest cabins – has an estimated value of $65 millionaccording to Superyacht Fan, and is owned by Deripaska, a longtime Putin ally who has been under U.S. sanctions since 2018. Abramov’s Titan is 263 feet long and has seven guest cabins, worth estimated at $100 million.

Three other yachts owned by Russian tycoons were also seen cruising the island nation’s waters, Reuters reported, including one belonging to Vladimir Potanin, a Russian nickel tycoon whose net worth is over $25 billion. Barbara de Potanin, named after her youngest daughter, is a 290ft superyacht with an estimated value of $150 million. A superyacht owned by oil executive Vagit Alekperov was also sailing to the Maldives, the data showed. At 230 feet long with six guest cabins and a glass bottom swimming pool, Alekperov’s Galactica Super Nova has an estimated price of $80 million.

It is not an easy task to move these superyachts moored in European ports to the Maldives. For example, if Sechin’s Amore Vero was able to leave the French port and head for the Maldives, that’s a distance of nearly 5,000 miles. It would be a bit longer trip for Abramovich’s Solaris, if he started from Barcelona.

Some Russian oligarchs have made public calls for Putin to stop the invasion. A few days after the start of the invasion, Deripaska called for negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv. Billionaire Evgeny Lebedev appealed to Putin in the evening standarda British newspaper he owns, demanding that Russian troops stop “killing their Ukrainian brothers and sisters”.

Even if more and more oligarchs see their superyachts seized because of the invasion, the Russian president’s own yacht would be fine. According to CBS News, a satellite image shows a yacht believed to belong to Putin moored in a Russian port – and beyond the reach of any sanction or possible seizure. John Smith, former director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, told the outlet that Putin was “cunning” about where to place his yacht.

“He knows how to hide when he needs to,” Smith said.