Sanctioned Russian oligarch yacht in Dubai as pressure mounts

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A sleek $156 million superyacht is now docked in Dubai, another reminder of the skyscrapers galore amid Moscow’s war against Ukraine How the emirate became a safe haven for Russian money.

The 98-meter (324-foot) Madame Gu, with its helipad, gym, beach club and elevator, remained moored near Dubai’s Port Rashid on Thursday in what has become a close partnership between the United States and the United Arab Emirates. Test of relationship with Emirates.

With its striking blue hull and a $1 million-a-year paint job price tag, the boat is owned by Andrei Skoch, one of the wealthiest men in the Russian Duma. As a steel magnate, Skoch’s fortune is worth about $6.6 billion, according to Forbes. Attempts to contact Skoch for comment were unsuccessful.

Just as sanctioned Russian billionaire Andrei Melnichenko’s motor yacht A is docked in the northern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, Madame Gu’s presence in Dubai shows how Russian oligarchs park their assets in the UAE despite Western The government is increasingly imposing sanctions, and pressure is mounting on the U.S. and its Gulf Arab allies to follow suit.

The U.S. Treasury Department first sanctioned Skoch in 2018 for his role in the government and for being accused of “longstanding ties to Russian organized crime groups, including spending time leading such businesses.” Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Mrs. Gu and her helicopter to bar U.S. entities from doing business with the superyacht. Skoch is also subject to EU sanctions.

Mrs Gu, who is registered in the Cayman Islands, flew the UAE flag as an Associated Press reporter observed the ship on Thursday — a type of hotel large enough to be converted into Dubai’s famous Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship that floats next to it A comparable display of wealth. It is also moored next to Dubai, the $200 million mega yacht owned by the city-state’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC show Madame Gu’s berth at Port Rashid from March 25.

The UAE, home to dazzling Dubai and oil-rich Abu Dhabi, has refused to take sides in Moscow’s war and has welcomed Russian money into its beach houses and luxury hotels. The UAE foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The invasion of Ukraine has left Russia’s wealthiest businessmen and politicians scrambling to rescue their vital assets from a widening dragnet. Superyachts linked to Russian oligarchs have played a huge role in a Western crackdown aimed at pressuring President Vladimir Putin to change course in Ukraine.

Authorities in Europe and elsewhere have seized yachts owned by sanctioned Russian billionaires on the U.S. sanctions list. Earlier this month, for example, the United States won a lawsuit in Fiji to seize a $325 million Russian-owned superyacht.

Other U.S. allies, including Germany, Britain, France and Italy, have also been involved in gathering and sharing information with Washington on the targeting of sanctions against the Russians, the White House said.

As one of the dwindling countries where Russians can still fly directly, the UAE has opted not to impose sanctions on Moscow or freeze the assets of Russian billionaires who have moved to the UAE.

So far, superyachts and private jets linked to Russian billionaires have avoided scrutiny in a country that has long attracted foreign money — legal and otherwise.

But their increasingly visible presence appears to be frustrating Washington.

At a House hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf acknowledged that the UAE has become a haven for Russian oligarchs linked to Putin.

“I’m not at all satisfied with the current record and I plan to make it a priority to push for a better adjustment, shall we say, work hard,” said Leif, a former ambassador to the UAE.

One of the main coordinators of the U.S. sanctions strategy against Russia, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary Wally Adeyemo, visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi this week to meet with UAE financial officials.

At a banking roundtable, he pleaded for vigilance.

“Despite this commitment (to prevent money laundering), the UAE – and other global financial centres – continue to face the threat of illicit financial flows,” he said, according to the Finance Ministry’s reading.

Adeyemo warned that the challenges arising from the Ukraine war “are for both governments seeking to hold Russia accountable and financial institutions like you responsible for imposing the financial sanctions we have imposed”.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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