US targets Jersey-linked Russian yacht broker

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A YACHT broker with close ties to Jersey has been added to the Russian sanctions list as US authorities expand their crackdown on oligarch assets around the globe.

Businessman Evgeniy Kochman and two Jersey-registered companies he runs – Imperial Yachts and BLD Management – have been named by the US Treasury Department as it seeks to increase pressure on Russian leader Vladimir Putin following the country’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

But whether any action will be taken against the companies in Jersey is unclear, as a government spokesperson told the JEP the Island does not implement US sanctions – only those issued by the UK or the UN Security Council – and the Jersey Financial Services Commission will not comment on individuals or entities.

Task forces in the US Justice and Treasury departments are now targeting ‘enablers’ linked to the Putin regime, American officials said, as well as trying to sever the complex networks wealthy Russians use to hide and move money.

Mr Kochman’s companies are said to cater to Moscow elites, with Imperial Yachts operating an office in the Russian capital, although both companies are largely run from Monaco.

The businesses were registered in Jersey through the Fiduchi Group, and use a postbox at the company’s Kensington Street office for filings with the JFSC.

Mr Kochman owns five per cent of each company, with the remainder held by Fiduchi Trustees Ltd. Beyond that the ownership is unclear. A spokesperson for Fiduchi told the JEP: ‘We are unable to comment on individual client matters.’

Imperial Yachts is understood to be one of Fiduchi’s largest clients.

The US action against Mr Kochman and Imperial Yachts follows the seizure of the £270 million mega-yacht Amadea in Fiji last month.

US authorities believe it is owned by sanctioned Russian gold mining billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, with Imperial Yachts having brokered its sale in 2021.

The yacht was turned over to the US after a legal battle in Fiji with the holding company Amadea is officially registered to, Millemarin Investment. US officials successfully took possession and sailed the yacht away under a US flag, with Amadea arriving in Honolulu this week.

The 348-foot yacht features a helipad, lobster tank, pool, jacuzzi, fire pit, a five-ton stainless-steel Art Deco albatross figurehead, a winter garden and luxurious interiors. Its yearly running costs are estimated to be £20-25 million.

According to a New York Times article about Mr Kochman and his companies – which described Jersey as a ‘secrecy haven’ – documents found on board suggest Imperial Yachts was managing the vessel as part of its wide-ranging services.

Imperial, referred to as a ‘Kremlin-associated yacht brokerage’ by the US Treasury, handles everything from initial building and fitting to charters and crew services.

In response to international media inquiries about the US sanctions, Imperial Yachts posted a statement to its website saying the company had been ‘targeted by numerous unfounded and inaccurate accusations’.

The statement said the accusations made by the US government and the press were ‘false’ and the company was ‘not involved in our client’s financial affairs’.

But US officials told the NYT it was the responsibility of people in the yacht services industry to avoid doing business with those on the sanctions list, otherwise they would also be subject to sanctions.

A Jersey government spokesperson said: ‘Jersey is a British Crown Dependency and implements autonomous (ie non-UN) UK sanctions. It does not implement the autonomous sanctions of any other country.

‘The UK adopts a robust and thorough approach when making autonomous sanctions designations or making proposals for UN sanctions listings, informed by access to extensive intelligence and data, and underpinned by legally robust processes that consider individuals’ rights as well as international foreign-policy issues. This is in line with the policy adopted in the other Crown Dependencies and many overseas territories.

‘It is not possible to hide the beneficial owner of an entity in Jersey. Jersey has a good relationship with US authorities, regularly exchanges beneficial ownership information with US authorities, and was recently publicly recognised for assisting a US sanctions investigation.

‘The Island has a long-standing record of supporting financial crime investigations by the US and other countries around the world.’

In a statement, the JFSC said: ‘Jersey has a mature and sophisticated regime for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Working in partnership with government and other agencies, we are actively committed to upholding international standards in the prevention and detection of money laundering and terrorist financing. Where this includes sanctions, we will ensure that compliance with these and our robust legislation is adhered to. The JFSC does not comment on individuals and or entities and therefore the JFSC will not be providing any further commentary at this time.’

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