ANTIGUA-Government moving to end legal battle regarding the sale of sanctioned luxury Russian yacht.

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ANTIGUA-Government moving to end legal battle regarding the sale of sanctioned luxury Russian yacht.
ANTIGUA-Government moving to end legal battle regarding the sale of sanctioned luxury Russian yacht.

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government Friday said it is moving to bring to an end “the wasteful and frivolous litigation” by a Russian citizen following the sale of the multi-million dollar 276 feet yacht, Alfa Nero, that had been auctioned here last month.

The yacht, which had been moored in Falmouth Harbour since March 2022 on the island’s southern coast. It had been sold to the former Google chief executive, Eric Schmidt, for US$67.6 million, beating out two other bidders. He had been given a seven-day deadline to affect payment.

International media had said the yacht had been valued at US$81 million and is owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Andrey Guryev following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Guryev, subjected to United Kingdom government sanctions in April 2022, denied being the owner.

The Gaston Browne government has already said it would use a significant portion of the revenue from the yacht’s sale to pay the country’s external debt.

But in a statement issued following the weekly Cabinet meeting, the government said that the decision by the High Court last Friday, June 30, 2023, to dismiss the latest request for injunctive relief by a Russian citizen/litigant who claims ownership of the vessel, prompted the Cabinet to decide to provide the purchaser with a guarantee against future liabilities and to proceed with the consummation of the sale.

“Further delays, the Cabinet fears, may frustrate the purchaser. The statement added that the Cabinet’s decision would end the wasteful and frivolous litigation by the Russian citizen.

The statement did not name the litigant, but media reports here said it is the daughter of the sanctioned Russian, with lawyers acting on her behalf threatening to go to court to halt hold up the sale.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas, speaking to reporters Friday, said that the government is not perturbed by the possible legal action, saying, “If truth be told, if you keep throwing something at a target long enough, eventually one of them may hit so you may ultimately have a situation where some liability becomes associated with our process.

“We’re prepared to grant an indemnity to the buyer against that liability. And so the liability will stay with Antigua and Barbuda; what that would mean in terms of financial exposure isn’t alone. It can’t be beyond the realized accessible cost for the craft,” he added.

Nicholas said that he understands the position being adopted by Schmidt to formalize the sale in light of a possible legal battle ‘adding, “I don’t think he can be held liable for any failure for the matter to be fully executed.

“A legal position is that we should wait until all legal proceedings are done. We’ve had one that has reached up to the Privy Council already,” Nicholas added, “and so the question is, how much time can we reasonably afford? At the same time, the risk we first identified continues to prevail. The government is certainly committed to executing the Alfa Nero sale.”

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