Hong Kong refuses to seize Russian superyacht


Hongkong city skyline scenery

US attempts to seize a yacht owned by a sanctioned Russian in Hong Kong have been dismissed by the Hong Kong Government. The 466ft (142m) Nord is anchored in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, flying the Russian flag.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, John Lee said that they will “laugh off” the current EU, US and UK sanctions imposed. This was in response to the US government reportedly urging the nation-state to seize the Russian owned superyacht Nord (pictured) docked in its waters. The yacht is owned by steel tycoon, Alexei Mordashov.

A spokesperson for the US government challenged Hong Kong’s reputation as an international financial hub if it did not adhere to Washington’s demands of seizing the vessel. “The possible use of Hong Kong as a safe haven by individuals evading sanctions from multiple jurisdictions further calls into question the transparency of the business environment,” said a statement.

But Chief Executive Lee, who was himself sanctioned last year, dismissed the challenge in a statement, saying that there is “no legal basis” for the nation to seize the vessel at the request of the US or EU. “In Hong Kong, we have the rule of law,” he said. “We will comply with any United Nations resolution on sanctions because Hong Kong has the legal basis to do so.”

Sanctioned by the US, EU and UK on 2nd June this year, Mordashov was worth $29.4bn before the invasion of Ukraine, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index. He is now believed to be worth $18.5bn.

At the time, The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said it was taking  “further action to degrade the key networks used by Russia’s elites, including President Vladimir Putin, to attempt to hide and move money and anonymously make use of luxury assets around the globe.”

Whilst numerous superyachts have been seized by the US, EU and UK, we have already seen other nations step in to aid the pursuit of sanctioned vessels. The best example is the superyacht, Amadea which was handed over to US authorities after being seized by the Fijian government.

One American lawyer told Superyacht investors that he believed the sanctions imposed on Russian superyacht owners to be “an unusual and unprecedented abuse of power.”

“I don’t know what recourse people have,” he said. “To me, it’s just deprivation of human rights if you can’t even defend yourself.”

It is unclear what will happen next to the vessel and how long it will continue to stay in Hong Kong waters. For now, Chief Executive Lee said that the “sanctions imposed on people in Hong Kong are barbaric” and that the government will “just laugh off the sanctions.”