Wed. Jul 6th, 2022

Antigua has called on the UK government to establish whether two yachts moored in the Caribbean island are owned by a sanctions-hit Russian oligarch, after the Financial Times identified a second vessel there with links to Roman Abramovich.

In a letter to the British High Commissioner to Antigua and Barbuda, seen by the FT, the island nation’s minister of foreign affairs Paul Chet Greene said its government had been “trying to establish if two particular ships could be owned by a certain Russian oligarch” .

However, it added, it had not been able to “pierce the veil of secrecy that masks the beneficial owner of two vessels”.

The FT revealed on Tuesday that a 67-meter explorer vessel named Garçon, moored in Falmouth Harbor marina at the southern tip of Antigua, was linked to the sanctions-hit Russian oligarch.

Another yacht docked in the same marina also appears to be connected to Abramovich. Halo, a 55-meter ship boasting a Jacuzzi that transforms into a helipad, is owned by the same British Virgin Islands-domiciled company as Garçon – Wenham Overseas Limited.

“It would be helpful to the government of Antigua and Barbuda – and to your own government actions against persons on its sanctioned list – if the relevant authorities in Britain would ascertain the beneficial owner of Wenham Overseas Ltd and provide that information to us,” Greene wrote in the letter.

Without official confirmation that the vessels’ ultimate owner was under sanctions, he added, “we are unable to take any action, lest we affect innocent parties”.

Wenham is the owner of Halo, according to maritime database Equasis. Aircraft registration documents show the same entity owns a Boeing 787 private jet, which previous press reports have identified as being linked to Abramovich. The Russian oligarch is also named as the owner of Wenham in a private plane ownership database seen by the FT.

Abramovich, the billionaire owner of multiple superyachts and private jets, has been placed under sanctions by the UK and EU, though not by the US. While Antigua said this month it would enforce all US, EU and UK sanctions on Russian entities and individuals, the island nation has struggled to verify Garçon’s ownership.

Ronald Sanders, ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the US, told the FT on Tuesday that his country was struggling to identify the ship’s ultimate owner, even after seeking help from the US and UK governments.

British officials confirmed the UK is in contact with the authorities of Antigua and Barbuda and are providing assistance.

Halo was built for Australian billionaire James Packer and was originally named EJI after the initials of his three children. However, the casino heir put the yacht up for sale a few months after it was delivered in 2018, reportedly because it was “too small”.

Wenham took ownership of the yacht in September 2018, shortly after the sale was announced. It was then renamed Halo.

Halo has six cabins that can accommodate 12 guests and has the “most expansive sun decks in her class”, according to Burgess Yachts, the brokerage that handled the sale. Its so-called “owner’s suite” features a study, walk-in wardrobe, en-suite bathroom and a “private folding balcony”.

Halo is under management by Isle of Man-based Döhle Yachts, according to Equasis records, the same company that managed the Garçon.

A spokesperson for Abramovich did not respond to a request for comment.

The whereabouts of Abramovich’s superyachts have come under scrutiny after two of his vessels – the 163-meter hull Eclipse and the 140-meter Solaris – sailed to Turkish ports last week.

The arrival of the vessels in Turkey has sparked concerns that the country is becoming a haven for western-targeted oligarchs given the country’s reluctance to sign up to sweeping sanctions against Russia.

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