You could buy oligarch’s seized £70m superyacht for bargain price at auction

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RUSSIAN oligarchs’ seized superyachts could be yours for a knock-down price, provided you have a few tens of millions burning a hole in your pocket.

Tango, a 255-foot megayacht owned by sanctioned Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg is likely to be sold off at auction as it costs so much to run it.

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The US seized a yacht belonging to a sanctioned Russian billionaire in SpainCredit: AP
Viktor Vekselberg used US payments to buy and maintain the superyacht

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Viktor Vekselberg used US payments to buy and maintain the superyachtCredit: Reuters
Tango is worth an estimated £70m, but could be sold for a knockdown price

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Tango is worth an estimated £70m, but could be sold for a knockdown priceCredit: AP

The lavish ship, worth an estimated £70 million, was seized by the US Department of Justice earlier this month in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Despite first being sanctioned by the US in 2018 Vekselberg, according to the DOJ, used “US dollar payments through US banks” to buy and maintain the boat.

This money also covered mooring fees and rooms at a luxury Maldives resort.

Russian oligarchs have been fleeing in their yachts to “sanctions safe havens” and beefing up their security in the wake of an international clampdown on Kremlin-friendly billionaires.

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Last month, the world’s largest sailing yacht worth £450m was seized by Italian police after its owner, Andrey Melnichenko, was placed on an EU sanctions list.

The seizure of Tango was part of Task Force KleptoCapture, a US bid to go after Russian individuals’ assets for enabling the war with Ukraine.

However, maintaining such a lavish vessel and keeping it seaworthy, while the DOJ looks to charge Vekselberg with bank fraud, money laundering, and sanctions violations, doesn’t come cheap.

In fact, if the yacht isn’t sold soon, it could end up on the scrapheap, just to pay off the carrying costs.

The humongous ship has room for 14 guests and 22 crew members, who are needed to maintain every aspect of the yacht.

It has four 1,730 hp diesel engines and can reach speeds of 22 knots.

Currently the 189th-longest yacht in the world, Tango also features a private owner’s deck, a contra-flow swimming pool, an outdoor cinema and a massage parlour.

It is far from the largest or most extravagant superyacht seized by international authorities since the start of sanctions against Russian citizens.

Earlier this month, Everton-linked oligarch Alisher Usmanov’s £455m yacht was seized, containing a £30m gold staircase.

However, even a comparatively modest yacht like Tango will still cost a fortune to run, roughly £7m a year.

A Bugatti can be kept under a tarp in a garage… The same can’t be said of a yacht that’s the length of a football field

Federal law enforcement officer

“If the maintenance and storage become prohibitively expensive, the government can go to the court and say, ‘we want to sell this and reduce it to cash,'” Stefan Cassella, a former federal prosecutor and money-laundering expert told The Daily Beast.

He added that the government would look to sell it “at auction for a fair market value and turning it into a liquid asset”.

Tango was the first yacht seized under the new task force, but, as experts on asset forfeiture warned, keeping hold of a luxury yacht is far harder.

“A Bugatti can be kept under a tarp in a garage until a case is concluded,” one federal law enforcement official told The Daily Beast. “The same can’t be said of a yacht that’s the length of a football field.”

Megayachts can fall prey to salt damage, bacterial growth in the engine caused by seawater entering the fuel tanks, barnacles, sun exposure, and even seagull poo.

Each of these seemingly minor issues can slowly destroy a ship and could make the Tango worthless by the time it is sold.

Vekselberg receiving an honour from former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

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Vekselberg receiving an honour from former Russian President Dmitry MedvedevCredit: AFP

Earlier this month, a yacht stewardess who worked for Russian oligarchs opened up on life on board the floating palaces.

The unnamed stewardess revealed she earns an astonishing £24k a month but receives ridiculous requests.

She told the Express how the majority of her guests were Russian millionaires and billionaires.

“The big yachts, the private ones, the majority are from Russian oligarchs…. very rich Russian people that rent the yacht for a few days,” she said.

And with no request off-limits, there can be some bizarre demands.

She says: “Once I got asked if I could make the dolphins jump during sunset. I said I was sorry but they were already booked.

“They ask for crazy stuff. One time they asked me if I could go to France to pick up a bottle of champagne they loved and we were in Italy!”

The crew member has a basic salary of £2,500 a month but can earn as much as £24,000 in the same period thanks to tips – which are £2,500-a-week at a “minimum”.

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“The Russian clients don’t have a good reputation in the yacht industry,” she claims.

“They are ‘noveux riche’ so they are very demanding and not very polite… With [some] Russians, we prepare in advance because they are hard work.”

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