Joe Biden's stark warning has oligarchs fleeing to the Indian Ocean with their yachts
Superyachts were transferred from the US to island nations like Maldives and Seychelles after US and allies move to seize the wealth of those with ties to Putin
During his State of the Union speech on March 1, 2022, US President Joe Biden issued a stark warning to Russian oligarchs, "We are coming for your ill-begotten gains." However, it appears that some of those gains have managed to escape the clutches of furious Western governments. According to news reports, several superyachts belonging to Russian oligarchs have since made their way to friendlier waters in the Indian Ocean.
The announcement is just the latest step the Biden administration is taking to crack down on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies. When Russia first launched its invasion of Ukraine, the US responded by sanctioning two banks and three families. In the week since, those sanctions have increased to cover nearly almost all key sectors of Russia's economy, barring energy. Short of putting boots on the ground, and diplomatically blacklisting Russia, the US and European allies have gone quite far.
The effects of the sanctions are already crippling the Russian economy, but it appears not badly enough to affect the oligarchs. As of March 2022, the US and EU have made it clear that they too will face the heat, beginning with their assets on foreign soil that includes superyachts, luxury apartments, and private jets.
Oligarchs forced to move assets
President Biden was very specific about the assets he wanted to target, telling the Russian elite, "We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets." While Biden announced it, Germany decided to act. On March 2, the German government seized a $600 million vessel named 'Dilbar' belonging to billionaire Alisher Usmanov. The ship had been in Hamburg for refitting, and as a result, was an easy target for the government.
Other yachts, which are in sea-worthy conditions were quickly moved by their owners out of fear. Bloomberg reported on March 2 that "a growing number of superyachts have made their way to the Indian Ocean cruising around the Maldives and Seychelles. In fact, the four biggest luxury yachts in the Maldives as of March 2 reportedly belong to Russian tycoons. Russian banker Andrey Kostin's ship departed Turkey on February 18 and will also dock in the nation, according to reports. Similarly, Oleg Deripaska has moved his vessel from Sri Lanka to the Maldives.
Jack Sweeney, the Flordia teen who gained international fame for tracking Elon Musk's private jet, has now set his sights on the jets of Russian oligarchs. Using two Twitter accounts, Sweeny provides live updates about the location and details of around 40 private jets linked to Russians. So far, there are no reports of the jets being seized, but that could change as more and more nations join the west in sanctioning Russia.
In some cases, it appears that the west is offering the oligarchs time to sell off their assets. Roman Abramovich, a tycoon often linked to Putin, recently put his London homes up for sale and has also sold Chelsea FC, the London-based soccer club. The news didn't go down too well with some British politicians, who have criticized the government for being too slow to act. It's unclear when the US government too will begin seizing assets, but it appears they may be too late.