High Court authorizes local search of yacht owned by Russian oligarch while FBI observes, says Foreign Affairs Minister

Investigations into the Alfa Nero, a yacht owned by a Russian oligarch, are said to be ongoing, after a joint search operation was conducted by local law-enforcement agencies and observed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aboard the vessel.

In a press release, Minister of Foreign Affairs Paul “Chet” Greene confirmed that the operation was conducted on Saturday, August 20, at Falmouth Harbour.

It was led by officers from the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) and supported by a task force comprising the Police, the Defence Force and the Customs Department.

The super yacht, owned by Andrey Guryev, has been anchored in Falmouth Harbour since February this year.   

Guryev appears on the sanctions list issued by the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

In March, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Government here advised all local companies not to transact any business with any persons, companies, or other entities that appear on these sanctions lists.

Therefore, the Alfa Nero reportedly was not provided with any fuel, except for emergency supplies to keep it secure – both for the vessel’s sake and the safety of Falmouth Harbour.  Therefore, it could not leave Antigua and Barbuda.

Under a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), the USA, on August 12, requested the help of the Government to conduct a search of the vessel and to interview the crew.

This search reportedly was made possible on August 17, after Attorney-General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin and the Director of Public Prosecution, Anthony Armstrong, completed reviews of the MLAT request.

However, after further consultations with the US authorities, Armstrong made an application to the High Court of Justice, which, on August 18, issued an order to board the vessel and search and seize relevant material, as well as to question the crew.

However, Armstrong, according to reports, met with all the heads of the law-enforcement agencies prior to the operation, and he emphasized that it was entirely under local control – although a request from the FBI to observe the operations, had been granted.

Greene says, “At the outset of the sanctions issued against named Russian persons, companies and property, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda announced that it joins the international community in ensuring that sanctions are respected in our jurisdiction….

“Further information, regarding the operation connected to Alfa Nero, will be released, as appropriate, and consistent with maintaining the confidentiality of the investigation,” Greene’s statement says.