In spite of amendments to the Port Authority Act, the Browne Administration might not be able to sell the Alfa Nero – the yacht registered to a Russian oligarch – if a challenge is made for ownership, says attorney Leon Chaku Symister.
The amendments were passed without alterations by the Senate on Monday, March 20. However, the legislation will have to be gazetted before any auction of the controversial vessel can take place.
The yacht has been docked in Falmouth waters since February 2022, after the United States placed sanctions on Russian oligarchs and their possessions – on account of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
However, on Monday, REAL News reported that a man identifying himself as Alexander Mavrodi of Moscow, Russia, is claiming ownership of the luxury vessel, which is said to be the property of Andrei Guryev.
In an e-mail, Mavrodi said he was surprised by some of the Government’s recent claims about the state of the vessel and its crew. Therefore, he said, he is claiming ownership of the yacht in order to reinstitute proper insurance and take care of its staff.
Symister says the interest expressed by this purported third party would impact the move by Government to auction it off.
But with word on the ground that the Browne Administration is desperate for money, he says that financial issues could arise if the sale of the boat does not go through, and Government might be challenged to meet its monthly obligations to workers.
It will be interesting, the attorney says, to see if any legal matter comes out of this recent interest in, and claim of, the vessel.
Additionally, Symister says, it is noteworthy that another Russian – and not the person announced to be the registered owner of the yacht – is coming forward to claim it. Hence, he believes that some interesting times lie ahead.
Reports say the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has already put in motion plans to sell the vessel – plans that were conceived since last year, 2022.
Over two weeks ago, Attorney-General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin announced that a notice was published in the local newspapers and other media outlets and will remain for a period of 10 days, notifying of the sale of the vessel.
This publication was to satisfy the legal requirements for a forced sale.
It was noted that if the owner does not claim the vessel within the specified period, then the Government – having already declared the vessel a hazard – will sell it to the highest bidder.
Sources say that a government senator and an ambassador are representing clients who have expressed an interest in purchasing the Alfa Nero.
Meanwhile, MP Sherfield Bowen, also an attorney, believes that 10 days’ notice is inadequate. He points out that a period of 90 days is customary for foreclosure on a property, and that lending institutions – not governments – are usually given priority in cases where assets are forfeited.
Senator Shawn Nicholas, meanwhile, has advised the Administration to deposit the proceeds of the sale into an escrow account – as a hedge against future claims – rather than into the Consolidation Fund.