The propensity of Russian oligarchs to spend their money in the West is increasingly catching up with the billionaires as crippling sanctions target their mega-yachts, private planes, and mansions.
In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden vowed "we are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets." The next day, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the creation of "Task Force KleptoCapture" to enforce sanctions, with the sanctions list expanding on Thursday.
“Today, across the U.S. government and in coordination with partners and allies, we are demonstrating our commitment to impose massive costs on Putin’s closest confidants and their family members and freeze their assets in response to the brutal attack on Ukraine. We also continue to target Russia’s destabilizing disinformation efforts," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, former CIA officer Alex Finley launched a new "Yacht Watch" column.
"As sanctions fell on several of Russia’s vaunted oligarchs following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, eyes began to turn to their vast wealth," she noted. "As a former CIA officer who has been studying Russian influence operations for years, I have watched the two-faced game unfold: Russia’s oligarch class enjoying the benefits of the democratic and open societies that Putin has been trying to destabilize, often with the support of those very same oligarchs. Russia is a great place for corrupt people to make money. But when it comes time to spend it, they prefer the West and its rule of law."
Rosneft Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin’s super-yacht, the Amore Vero, was impounded by French authorities in the Mediterranean port of La Ciotat, Bloomberg News reported Thursday.
Russian-born American journalist Julia Ioffe described the impoundment as "big."
Igor Sechin, known as "Darth Vader" in Russia, is one of the most powerful and terrifying men in the country. He is close to Putin and was a "translator" in Mozambique during the civil war there. He then gobbled up the majority of Khodorkovsky's oil company when he was arrested.https://twitter.com/business/status/1499333326427074560\u00a0\u2026— Julia Ioffe (@Julia Ioffe) 1646311662
Finley, the former CIA officer, published a "rogues' gallery" of yachts suspected of being owned by Putin and Russian oligarchs.
For instance, Putin's yacht "Graceful" which is estimated to be worth $100 million.
"Like most government bureaucrats, Vladimir Putin can afford a yacht. That’s just how Russian government salaries roll, I guess. Or — and I’m just spitballing here — Putin might have some illicit money tucked away. In early February, his yacht high-tailed it out of Hamburg, Germany, where she was being refurbished, setting off speculation that the Russian president was about to launch his war," she wrote.
Putin was successful in getting the "Graceful" back to the safety of Russian waters prior to launching his invasion.
"Graceful has all the amenities a strongman dictator like Putin would want, including, reportedly, an indoor pool that converts into a dance floor with bright colored lights and towel cabinets that double as vodka bars. But is one pool ever enough? Especially for someone on a boat already surrounded by water? Never fear: Graceful also has a spa pool, as well as two plunge pools, for a hot or cold dip. The yacht also features a theater where Putin can enjoy a screening of Armando Iannucci’s Death of Stalin. Graceful also has a wine cave with space for 400 bottles," she wrote.
CNN's Jake Tapper did his impression of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" host Robin Leach while discussing "Champagne wishes and caviar dreams" in his segment: