The 'craziest thing' about seizing Russian superyachts is the US has to pay for them, Biden's national security advisor says on hot mic

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Following Russia's attack on Ukraine, the US has cracked down on Russian oligarchs and their assets.

  • That crackdown has led to numerous seizures of luxurious superyachts from ports around the world.

  • The US is on the hook for upkeep of those vessels, Biden's national security adviser said Thursday.

The worldwide crackdown on Russian assets has deprived many of that country's oligarchs of their superyachts, but those seizures also have a cost for the US, which has to pay for the upkeep of the vessels it seizes.

Speaking moments before the beginning of an event at the Center for a New American Security on Thursday, Jake Sullivan, who is national security adviser to President Joe Biden, mentioned the ongoing Operation KleptoCapture, a Justice Department-led effort targeting Russian "elites, proxies, and oligarchs" with sanctions and civil and criminal asset seizures.

Sullivan appeared to reference the recent seizure of the Amadea, a 348-foot yacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov. The US moved to seize the yacht in early May and it sailed for the US in early June, after Fiji's supreme court authorized its seizure.

"I just wasn't aware how many super yachts there were in the world," Richard Fontaine, chief executive officer of the CNAS, tells Sullivan on the recording. "I mean the size of these things, the value of these things is unbelievable."

Jake Sullivan.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

"I know. It's so ridiculous, but you know what the craziest thing is? When we seize one, we have to pay for upkeep," Sullivan says in reply. "The federal government pays for upkeep because under the kind of forfeiture rubric, so like some people are basically being paid to maintain Russian superyachts on behalf of the United States government."

Fontaine interviewed Sullivan during the event Thursday morning. The audio of their exchange was broadcast on a livestream, which was taken offline shortly after Sullivan's comments were publicized. A spokesperson for the think tank called the takedown a "honest mistake" and it was later reposted.

Sullivan's mention of a "forfeiture rubric" was likely a reference to the US's government's responsibility for maintaining property it seizes in good condition.

The US Marshals Service, which takes control of seized property, has a network of private contractors that often do the day-to-day maintenance. Seized assets are often stored to make that work easier, with cars placed in specialized lots or boats put in dry docks.

"If there's something that has to be done, like make sure the property doesn't flood or make sure the water's turned off in the winter or something — that's the Marshals' responsibility," Sarah Krissoff, a former federal prosecutor, told Insider's Jacob Shamsian this spring.

Read the original article on Business Insider