The Fiji Police Force has seized the US$325 million (FJD$466 million) superyacht, Amadea, belonging to Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov.
Crew members are being questioned in Police custody.
Commissioner of Police, Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho confirmed this Wednesday.
It is understood that the yacht had travelled from Mexico or South America to Fiji and arrived at the Lautoka Port on Tuesday.
Brigadier-General Qiliho said the yacht had allegedly berthed within Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) before getting the customs clearance.
“Vessels that arrive in the Fiji EEZ must get their custom clearance first, which was allegedly breached by the yacht Amadea and is being investigated,” he said
Brigadier-General Qiliho said a request for mutual assistance in a criminal matter was made from our foreign counterparts to the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
He added that the Government was aware the yacht was coming our way.
“We have agreements with our foreign partners in regard to sanctions against Russian oligarchs,” Brigadier-General Qiliho said.
“When the yacht was known to be coming in, we have been working with our foreign counterparts in dealing with the situation.”
Brigadier-General Qiliho said they were in the early stages of investigation of alleged breaches by the superyacht.
“We are going through the process with the presence of our foreign counterparts who we are working with.
Police Commissioner Qiliho did not rule out the possibility of extending the investigations into arms and ammunition, illicit drugs, and foreign currencies.
He said Police were investigating the likelihood of other criminal activities like money laundering and undeclared weapons that might be on board.
“If investigations result in court procedures, we have to go through that process,” he said.
Responding to comments made by National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad: Brigadier-General Qiliho said there have been comments made in other media outlets that were baseless and unwarranted.
“We are well aware and we have put in place measures that have resulted in the actions that we are taking now,” Police Commissioner Qiliho said.
“And in particular, Prasad has made some comments in one of the print media that is really unsubstantiated.”
Police Commissioner Qiliho said if public health, security, or safety was concerned, Police had that covered with the protocols put in place with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.
“Certainly, with the ongoing situation between Ukraine and Russia, the eyes of the world are on the situation that we are handling right now and we are handling it the way it is supposed to be handled,” he said.
Brigadier-General Qiliho said our laws allowed for this mutual assistance for Article 18 of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNCTOC) under which Fiji and most of our foreign partners were covered.
“They made the request based on Section 5 of Fiji Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1997.
“The Act applies to any foreign country that has an arrangement or has entered into a reciprocal agreement on assistance in criminal matters in Fiji.”
Brigadier-General Qiliho added that they were conducting investigations based on the Act and its provisions.
“Section 9 of the Act allows foreign countries to make requests to the Attorney-General who has the power to receive and transmit the request to the competent authorities, which in this case, is the Police.
“Section 11 of the Act allows foreign countries to request for evidence collection in Fiji for the purpose of proceedings or investigations upon authorisation by the Attorney-General.”
Police Commissioner Qiliho added that they were working with enforcement agencies including the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Naval Division and the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service.
Minister for Defence, Inia Seruiratu reiterated Fiji’s position on Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“I don’t want to make a statement because Fiji’s position on Russia has been made known by Foreign Affairs to the UN Secretary General through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we stick to that,” said Mr Seruiratu.
Meanwhile, at the opening of the Blackrock Peacekeeping Camp in Nadi earlier this year, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama reaffirmed Fiji’s opposition to the war.
“The Pacific was united in condemning the invasion at the floor of the UN General Assembly. We remain absolute in our call to end the conflict and return to diplomacy,” said Bainimarama.
SOURCE: FIJI SUN/PACNEWS