Russian oligarch’s $500m mega-yacht strains US-HK relations
It’s the mega yacht that got away. As Western sanctions hit Vladimir Putin’s allies earlier this year after the Russian leader invaded Ukraine, their luxury yachts were seized one after another in jurisdictions around the world.
But not the North, a $500 million vessel linked to steel tycoon Alexey Mordashov. This spring the ultra-luxurious yacht risk a collision turning off his transponders and racing full steam towards Vladivostok from the Indian Ocean, escaping the grasp of Western authorities.
Now, what infuriates US officials, it is docked in plain sight in Hong Kong – and authorities are doing nothing about it.
A spokesperson for the Hong Kong Maritime Department say it FinancialTimes:
“Some countries may impose unilateral sanctions against certain places based on their own considerations”, but the Hong Kong government “does not enforce, and we do not have the legal authority to take action against, the sanctions unilateral measures imposed by other jurisdictions”.
US officials were unimpressed. State Department officials told the British newspaper that “Hong Kong’s reputation as a financial center depends on compliance with international laws and standards… The possible use of Hong Kong as a safe haven by individuals escaping the sanctions of several jurisdictions further question the transparency of the workplace.”
It would “significantly increase the risks if Hong Kong became widely seen as a popular destination for the assets of sanctioned Russian companies or individuals,” Ryan Mitchell, who teaches international law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the newspaper. He added: “Companies or individuals based in Hong Kong should be aware that they could subsequently face secondary sanctions if they enter into business transactions or relationships with Russian sanctions targets.”
Mordashov has close ties to Putin and made his billions as chairman of Severstal, a Russian steel and mining giant.
However, not all of his yachts escaped. In April, Italy enter the Lady M superyacht in the port of Imperia after Mordashov was blacklisted by the European Union. This yacht, however, is valued at just $27 million and measures just 215 feet.
The North, on the other hand, spans 465 feet and is valued at half a billion dollars. A Superyacht timetables video about the ship, made by a German shipyard, has garnered more than 570,000 views on YouTube.
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