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Ukraine Auctions Off $200M Russian Yacht

Royal Romance (file image courtesy Tjerk Zweers / CC BY 2.0)
Royal Romance (file image courtesy Tjerk Zweers / CC BY 2.0)

Published Apr 24, 2024 4:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

The government of Ukraine has selected a Dutch auction house to oversee the sale of the Russian yacht Royal Romance, which was seized and transferred to Ukrainian ownership earlier this year. 

Croatian and Ukrainian authorities say that Royal Romance was owned by Viktor Medvedchuk, a former Soviet lawyer, Ukrainian politician, oligarch and supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Medvedchuk was indicted by Ukrainian prosecutors for treason in 2021, and was captured by Ukrainian forces in April 2022. He was handed over to Russian forces in a prisoner exchange later that year, and he now resides in exile in Russia.  

Medvedchuk has been sanctioned by Ukraine and twice by the United States. In March 2022, a court in Croatia moved to seize one of his local assets - the Royal Romance, a $200 million, 300-foot Feadship megayacht. The owner's attorneys claimed that the seizure was unjust and that Medvedchuk was no longer the yacht's owner. 

A Croatian judge cleared the transfer of title to Ukrainian asset-forfeiture agency ARMA earlier this year. After soliciting interest from international auction houses, ARMA selected Dutch firm Troostwijk Auctions. Once the vessel is sold, ARMA is authorized to use the proceeds from foreign asset seizures to buy war bonds. 

"The assets of traitors to Ukraine will be used for the benefit of Ukraine," said ARMA in a statement. "This case also sends a clear message to oligarchs and corrupt officials that their illicit assets will be identified, seized and realized for the benefit of the Ukrainian people."

The international forfeiture and sale of Russian megayachts has had uneven progress, thanks in large part to the difficulty of proving ownership. The government of Antigua has yet to complete a sale of the Alfa Nero, linked to the secretive Russian billionaire Andrey Guryev, even after securing a tentative buyer. The U.S. government has petitioned a court to auction off the seized Russian megayacht Amadea to avoid further maintenance costs, and that action is under consideration at trial. Germany has seized a yacht linked to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov and his sister, but prosecutors have had a hard time proving that Usmanov is the vessel's owner, since he has taken his name off the trust that holds the vessel's title. 

File image: Royal Romance (file image courtesy Tjerk Zweers / CC BY 2.0)