UPDATE, AUGUST 23, 2022: The FBI has declined to comment on the boarding of the superyacht Alfa Nero over the weekend. Read on for our original article.
Antigua and Barbuda government and law-enforcement officials accompanied American FBI agents yesterday as they searched Alfa Nero in Antigua and questioned her crew. The actions are connected to the yacht and her owner each being on international sanctions lists stemming from the invasion of Ukraine.
The 269-foot (82-meter) yacht has been in Falmouth Harbor since May. Neither the yacht nor her reported ultimate beneficial owner, Andrey Guryev, was under sanctions then. However, the United States sanctioned both on August 2. The U.S. Treasury Department identifies Guryev as a known close associate of Russian President Vladmir Putin and a former government official. Additionally, while it says the chemical company he founded is not under sanctions, Guryev is. It’s due to “operating or having operated in the accounting sector and the management consulting sector of the Russian Federation economy.” The European Union sanctioned him in March, with the United Kingdom sanctioning him shortly after the Treasury Department.
The Treasury Department further indicates that Guryev acquired the superyacht in 2014, and that Alfa Nero turned off her AIS to avoid seizure. AIS history confirms that her tracking went dark in March. The last entered position was St. Maarten. Yacht watchers saw her in Antigua in May, still without broadcasting via AIS.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has not issued a statement on the boarding or search. We contacted the DOJ by email and phone but were unable to reach a spokesperson by press time. However, E.P. Chet Greene, the Antigua and Barbuda minister of foreign affairs, confirmed the boarding. According to a statement, the DOJ formally requested his government’s assistance to search Alfa Nero and question the crew on August 12. The High Court of Antigua approved a boarding and search and seizure order, along with an order to question the crew, on August 18. The Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) led the search. It did so with police, Defence Force, and Customs officials as well. Greene’s statement indicates that Antiguan authorities retained control over the operations yesterday, with FBI officials permitted to observe.
Notably, Greene also says the superyacht Alfa Nero has been in Falmouth Harbor since February, cut off from receiving supplies other than for safe operations since March. The government of Antigua and Barbuda had advised local companies to refrain from engaging in business with sanctioned individuals and entities that same month.
“Responding to requests from countries, such as the US, with which we have binding Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, is a legal obligation which must be upheld,” Greene says. He has not elaborated on why officials searched Alfa Nero or questioned her crew. He does say, though, that further information is forthcoming as the investigation continues. For now, the yacht still remains unable to depart Antigua.
Interestingly, Greene points out that two other superyachts, Garçon and Halo, departed Antigua without issue in July. Neither yacht is on any sanctions list, he says. He also says neither the EU nor the UK requested to board or detain them. Both belong to Russian businessman and yacht enthusiast Roman Abramovich, who has been under EU and UK sanctions since March. Currently, the yachts are in Turkey.
Alfa Nero, from Oceanco and Nuvolari-Lenard, received an International Superyacht Society design award in 2008.