In these uncharted waters, Senator Nicholas advises Gov’t to place proceeds of controversial yacht sale in escrow account

The money made by the Gaston Browne Administration from the sale of the Alfa Nero, the super- yacht owned by a Russian oligarch, should be put in an escrow account, suggests United Progressive Party (UPP) Senator Shawn Nicholas.

The Government has made moves to auction the vessel, including amendments to the Port Authority Act.  These amendments were passed in the Senate on Monday, March 20, clearing the way for the sale.

While there are allegations that two persons have already expressed an interest in the vessel, Nicholas says this is a major international case with far-reaching implications.

Accordingly, Nicholas is asking what gives the Government the right to hold onto the proceeds from the sale of the vessel.

After the monies are placed in the Consolidated Fund – instead of in escrow – the senator asks whether the Government would be in the position to withdraw it if an error is shown to have been made.

And if – after the Government sells or disposes of this asset – sanctions are taken against Antigua and Barbuda, will this small island-state be in a position to fend for itself, Nicholas asks.

Further, the Senate minority leader is curious to know who will be accepting the ownership certificate of this vessel when the eyes of the whole world are on Antigua and Barbuda.

Nicholas notes that the country has found itself in uncharted waters with this complex issue.  

Meanwhile, she spoke of a recently formed group, which reportedly came into being on March 17, 2022, called the Russian Elite Proxies Oligarch – or REPO.

The UPP senator says this body, along with many others, is looking at how they can recoup funds to assist war-torn Ukraine.

Meanwhile, attorney Anthony Astaphan, SC, is discrediting Nicholas’ misgivings, saying the Browne Administration is on sound legal footing by passing the Port Authority (Amendment) Bill.

Reportedly, the Bill is expected to provide the legislative security needed ahead of the pending sale of the yacht.

In the meantime, there are reports that an Alexander Mavrodi of Moscow, Russia, has announced an ownership claim for the vessel, which has been docked in Antigua waters since February 2022.