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US has a superyacht sized problem

The United States government is on a mission to seize a $156 million superyacht in Dubai, an action the equivalent of taking a toy away from a child.

In June, the United States designated Madame Gu, which has been linked to Andrei Skoch, a Russian steel magnate and lawmaker under sanctions, as blocked property.

According to New York Times reporting, the yacht was the epitome of an awkward diplomatic argument between the United States and the United Arab Emirates [UAE].

The yacht, currently sitting at Dubai’s Mina Rashid Marina, has been central to an argument about the UAE’s ‘safe haven’ status for Russian money and assets – beyond the reach of United States sanctions.

The sanctions have meant that the yacht cannot use American companies for its upkeep, employ United States citizens, or use United States money.

A rumour circulating in international media claims the United States Justice Department is now actively trying to take the boat.

Andrei Skoch, a member of Russia’s Parliament and linked to the yacht according to U.S. court filings, has been sanctioned twice by the United States, first in 2018 and then after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year.

The United States Treasury Department said he had “longstanding ties to Russian organized criminal groups”.

Here’s the problem, the United States isn’t legally able to seize property in a sovereign nation without permission from its government – and the UAE has essentially said no.

The United States wants to seize the asset and use the money to help Ukraine win the war that Russia began.

However, the rich and powerful have a way of keeping themselves that way, and what better place to do it than one of the most wealthy nations in the world?

While taking the yacht could mean a lot for the effort in Ukraine, there’s nothing to say it would significantly disrupt a corrupt oligarch’s life.

So far, the yacht’s generator has been removed after the company providing it found out about Russian links.

The yacht means more than just money to fund Ukraine’s side of the war, it points to the absurd notion that if you have the money, you can get away with anything.

Using tax havens, finding limbo-nations to store your yacht, and even pushing influence on governments are just a few behaviours that are only afforded to the mega-rich.

But at what cost? A lavish lifestyle can’t be worth much if you’re always on the run from the law.

Of course, not all billionaires live like this, but they have a much greater opportunity than billions of other people.

In a world where we have finite resources, why is it that a small minority is allowed to galavant across the globe doing whatever they please?

That, I believe, is some of the points the United States could be making by trying to seize the largest yacht ever manufactured in the Netherlands.

It’s about holding those who are related to a nation causing tremendous harm accountable.

Seizing the superyacht is, in part, catching Skoch, which could be one of the United States’ best courses of action against Russia.

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Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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