Oligarch's Daughter Disrupts Auction of Seized Russian Yacht

Alfa Nero
Alfa Nero in better times during a port call in Monaco (Remii / CC BY SA 3.0)

Published Sep 4, 2023 2:36 PM by Paul Benecki

When the government of Antigua seized the ultra-luxury superyacht Alfa Nero last year, local officials may not have realized how difficult it would be to get rid of. The vessel's upkeep is costing Antigua nearly $30,000 per week, and is creating an insurance risk and tying up marina space that would otherwise be used for revenue - generating purposes. It has been auctioned off - but a legal dispute has prevented Antigua from completing the deal and transferring the vessel to a new owner. 

Alfa Nero has been linked to the secretive Russian billionaire Andrey Guryev, who was sanctioned by the U.S. government in early 2022. When Alfa Nero appeared in Falmouth Harbor last year, the FBI arranged with local authorities to raid it and question the crew for evidence of its ownership. Guryev denied that he owns the vessel, so Antigua seized it as abandoned property and took legislative steps to auction it off. 

In June, the U.S. Department of the Treasury lifted sanctions on the vessel to clear the way for a sale. An auction was held on June 16, and the highest bidder was former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The winning bid came in just shy of $68 million, far less than the estimated value. 

There is a wrinkle, however. Guryev's daughter, Yulia Guryeva-Motlokhov, has filed a suit claiming that she is the vessel's true owner and that the yacht's seizure and sale violated procedure. (Unlike Guryev, Guryeva-Motlokhov is not sanctioned by the United States or the EU.) The ongoing lawsuit means that Antigua can't issue a free title to Schmidt, the high bidder; without a free title, Schmidt has declined to pay, Information Minister Melford Nicholas told the Antigua Observer on Friday. 

According to Nicholas, the legal dispute may force Antigua to turn to the next-highest bidder. This unnamed party submitted a runner-up bid of $66 million, which is above Antigua's reserve price of $60 million.

As for Port of Falmouth's CEO, he is primarily interested in seeing the last of Alfa Nero.

“I just want to see it gone,” Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority CEO Darwin Telemaque told the London Times in June. “This whole . . . thing has been like a Tom Clancy novel. And I'm stuck in the middle."