Yacht of Russia’s wealthiest oligarch docked in Dubai port

DUBAI – The man believed to be Russia’s wealthiest oligarch, who was photographed playing hockey with President Vladimir Putin, joins a growing list of people transferring — or sailing — their valuable assets to Dubai as the West ramps up its massive sanctions program tightens Russia’s economy.

Vladimir Potanin, head of the world’s largest producer of refined nickel and palladium, may not yet face US or European sanctions; such sanctions could shake up metals markets and potentially disrupt supply chains, experts say. As the largest shareholder in mining company Nornickel, Potanin had personal wealth of $30.6 billion before the war against Ukraine, according to Forbes.

But like an increasing number of blacklisted Russian oligarchs, he has apparently moved his $300 million superyacht to the safe haven of Dubai in the US-allied United Arab Emirates as a precautionary measure.

Her name is Nirvana, and the sleek, 88-meter (289-foot) superyacht, outfitted with a glass elevator, gym, jacuzzi, 3D cinema and two terrariums filled with exotic reptiles, stands out even in a busy port of flashy ones , floating villas.

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The huge Dutch-built navy-hued ship was docked under the Cayman Islands flag on Tuesday as Associated Press journalists watched the ship in Dubai’s Port Rashid — within sight of sanctioned the $156 million Madame Gu owned by Russian MP Andrei Skoch.

The arrival of Russian luxury ships in Dubai has become an oversized symbol of the UAE Reluctance to Moscow’s war on Ukraine and enforce Western sanctions. One of a shrinking number of countries where Russians can still fly direct, the financial hub has become a thriving hub for Russia’s wealthy, in part because of its reputation for welcoming money from anywhere — both legitimate and shady.

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“They haven’t tried to hide the fact that they themselves accept oligarchs and their yachts,” said Julia Friedlander, a former senior policy adviser for Europe in the US Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “When it comes to taking sides in the conflict, it is not in their political interest. They want to keep their access to money from around the world.”

The UAE Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Emirates’ stance has fueled tensions with the United States, which has sought to pressure its Gulf Arab ally to help fight a evasion of Russian sanctions. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, one of the key US coordinators for Russia’s sanctions strategy, visited the United Arab Emirates last week to voice American concerns about Russian financial flows and to call for heightened vigilance.

Still, there is no indication that President Joe Biden will impose secondary sanctions, leaving Washington with few pressure points.

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As Moscow’s war against Ukraine continues, Western economic sanctions have escalated to pressure Putin to change course. The European Union has looted billions of dollars in art, yachts and property. UK, Fiji, Italy, Spain and other countries have confiscated yachts from oligarchs. The US has confiscated ships and planes.

However, some prominent oligarchs have escaped blacklisting due to their strategic holdings. Although Potanin has faced Canadian and Australian sanctions for his close ties to the Kremlin, his reputation as the “King of Nickel” has so far spared him.

“We’re reaching a critical metal shortage and we don’t know where these supply chains are going, so you have to be wondering if sanctioning would make things worse?” Friedlander said. “These are serious considerations.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/business/2022/06/28/yacht-of-wealthiest-russian-oligarch-docked-in-haven-dubai/ Yacht of Russia’s wealthiest oligarch docked in Dubai port

Sarah Y. Kim

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