PHOTO: Morio

Wilson Fittipaldi Jr. Wanted for Arrest in Yacht Case

Wilson Fittipaldi Jr., the Brazilian race car driver turned yacht builder, faces arrest the next time he comes to the United States. It stems from a lawsuit over an unfinished megayacht constructed by his now-defunct Fittipaldi Yachts.

A U.S. District judge in Miami issued the warrant in March. This follows the same judge holding Fittipaldi Jr. in contempt of court in October 2016. The judge further imposed a related fine of $100 per day. The contempt ruling and fine resulted due to Fittipaldi Jr. failing to appear in court last July. He was ordered to appear due to a nearly $7-million default judgment against him, from September 2015.

That judgment, in turn, resulted from charges filed in 2013 for breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, and more, over the above-mentioned yacht. The yacht was hull number one of a 110-foot (abut 33.5-meter) motoryacht series. According to court documents, Brazil-based Fittipaldi Yachts started construction on the megayacht more than a decade ago. In August 2007, Fittipaldi Jr. and his company sold the partially built yacht to a buyer, Casino Royale LLC, agreeing to complete her. In addition, Fittipaldi Yachts agreed to acquire all documents and pay all fees required for exporting the yacht.  

Despite Casino Royale making milestone payments, it states in court filings that Fittipaldi Yachts did not pay suppliers contributing to the build. It also states that Fittipaldi Yachts’ license to import equipment tax-free expired in late 2007, but that the yard didn’t reveal the expiration until months later. As a result, Brazilian customs authorities began seizing items that Fittipaldi Yachts ordered for import beginning in January 2008. Casino Royale claims that the shipyard revealed in April 2008 that it wouldn’t be able to finish the 110-footer due to owing millions to creditors and in back taxes to the Brazilian government. Fittipaldi Yachts requested adjusting the original payment terms.

Before the adjustment could be worked out, Casino Royale claims, Fittipaldi Yachts sold the yacht’s engines and other equipment, without notice. The owner of hull number two in the 110 series reportedly purchased them. Despite this, Fittipaldi Yachts allegedly pledged in October 2008 that it could complete Casino Royale’s yacht by June 2009. That did not happen. Fittipaldi Yachts defaulted on its lease on the shipyard property in August 2010. Fittipaldi Yachts ceased business by March 2012. And, according to Casino Royale, the megayacht was never completed. Furthermore, it claims, neither Fittipaldi Yachts nor Fittipaldi Jr. provided documents allowing Casino Royale to move the yacht elsewhere.

The arrest warrant from March is valid only on U.S. soil. Fittipaldi Jr. does visit family in Florida, however. For example, his brother Emerson, the renowned Formula One driver, lives there.

Fittipaldi Jr. did not respond to our requests seeking comment.

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