Saturday, March 05, 2022

Biden Has Only One Russian Yacht He Can Seize. (Peter Swanson, Loose Cannon blog on Substack)

Peter Swanson in his Loose Cannon substack blog writes about the ARETI, the Russian oligarch yacht at Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor in St. Augustine, Florida: 

Biden Has Only One Russian Yacht He Can Seize

Relatively Modest Example Docks at St. Augustine, Florida

"We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets," President Joe Biden said Tuesday in his State of the Union Address. "We are coming for your ill-begotten gains."

Make that “yacht.” Singular, as in just one. And are federal marshals really coming to seize Areti from Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor in St. Augustine, Florida?

A vessel identified by Forbes magazine and AIS as ‘Areti,’ lies at her usual berth at Camachee Cove in St. Augustine, Florida.

Forbes magazine has writers assigned full-time to covering the billionaire beat, and on Tuesday it published a map showing the location of all yachts belonging to so-called Russian oligarchs throughout the world. Only one was in the United States, a 128-foot Burger whose beneficial owner is energy magnate and Florida resident Igor Makarov.

(“Beneficial owner” is the phrase used when sorting out the corporate maze of legalownership just isn’t worth the trouble. Areti, for example, is registered in the Cayman Islands.)

So, I read the March 1 Forbes story by Giacomo Tognini, who wrote:

 As recently as February 28, Forbes tracked the wealth of more than 100 Russian billionaires. Using data from yacht valuation experts VesselsValue, Forbes has compiled a list of every yacht owned by Russian billionaires and recent dropoffs—both those that have been sanctioned and those that have not. At least 12 Russian billionaires fell out of the three-comma-club on Tuesday.

Collectively, Forbes says, the 36 yachts are worth $4 billion.

Already, France and Germany have scored.  French authorities Wednesday seized the 280-foot Amore Velo, docked at La Ciotat shipyards on the south coast of France. Beneficial owner: Igor Sechin, chief executive of Russian energy giant Rosneft. Also Wednesday, Germany did not seize a 500-foot, $600 million yacht linked to another oligarch, Alisher Usmanov. Okay, not seized, but cannot leave town either. Under arrest, maybe? Forbes describes Usmanov as an “ore and steel giant.” His putative ship is named Dilbar.

Compared to these trophies to wretched excess, Areti is a positively modest craft. After learning her name, I typed it into the Marine Traffic AIS app on my phone and there she was on the screen, resting alongside the facedock at the entrance to Camachee Cove. I got in my Loose Cannon-mobile and drove over to have a look at America’s only potentially seizeable oligarch yacht.

As I expected, Areti was the biggest boat at Camachee, which happens to be the high-end marina in Northeast Florida. I snapped a few pictures of her from the Vilano Bridge. The onsite Kingfish Grill was closed but overlooks Areti from the opposite side of the entrance channel, in case you want to inspect her while enjoying a decent Painkiller

The yacht’s midship name panel was covered by canvas to hide her identity, something I had not seen since the bad old days in Havana. (Owners of American vessels that had come to Cuba without U.S. permission used to drape carpet or canvas over boat names to frustrate U.S. government marina spies, which were a thing back then.) I also noted a six-foot-tall, air-filled, American-flag tube-man dancing on the upper deck. There was at least one hand on board.


According to published reports, Makarov engaged in the usual oligarch shenanigans in the 1990s but has otherwise kept a low profile, except in competitive cycling. Before he became an oligarch he raced bicycles, and now pushes his weight around in the cycling world through his high positions in the sport’s governing bodies. Forbes says the guy is worth is $2.1 billion. Makarov’s yacht is named after his company, the Areti International Group, formerly known as Itera, which is Areti spelled backwards.

The Areti I saw was actually Areti I, one of two of aluminum yachts that the Burger Boat Company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin built for Makarov and launched in 2007. Her twin, Areti II, was kept in the Mediterranean and then sold to the CEO of Lending Tree. VesselsValue reports the value of the St. Augustine Areti at $7 million.

Igor Makarov was the private owner who commissioned “Burger Twins,” as described in this screenshot from the Burger website.

(To make things more confusing, Makarov had also owned a 279-foot Lurssen yacht, also named Areti. She was reportedly sold in 2019.)

I’ve emailed the Areti International Group and asked if they would please tell me why Biden shouldn’t take away Makarov’s remaining yacht. If anyone gets back to me, I’ll follow up with their statement.

Makarov was one of 96 oligarchs named in a 2017 CAATSA legislation signed into law by President Trump in 2017 despite his reservations about it. The law codefied the ability to sanction bad actors such as Russia, North Korea and Iran. But the list of individuals turned out to be pretty meaningless after it was learned that officials had just copied it from…you guessed it…the Forbes list of Russian billionaires. No effort was made to ascertain to what degree anyone on the list actually deserved punishment.

The European Union and the U.S. have sanctioned a number of oligarchs for past and present Russian transgressions. Makarov is on neither list.

So, I have no idea whether Igor Makarov, who has had a business presence in Florida since 1992 and seems to be living here too, deserves to have his boat taken away. But if it helps to end the war in Ukraine, I’m all for it.

Below are images of Areti from the Burger website. There’s an accomodations plan at the end.

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