The government’s claim that the Alfa Nero superyacht was abandoned in Antigua before being seized and auctioned is being challenged by an individual who claims to be the rightful owner.
The yacht had been moored in Falmouth Harbour for over a year before being seized by the Gaston Browne-led administration in April 2021, on the grounds that it posed a threat to the area due to being abandoned.
The government attempted to auction the vessel, with winning bids from parties like former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who bid $67.6 million.
However, Yulia Guryeva-Motlohkov, the daughter of a sanctioned Russian oligarch, Andrey Gurvey, has been trying to block the sale, saying she is the rightful owner and disputing the government’s ownership claim.
The case is now in court, with Dr David Dorsett representing Guryeva-Motlokhov.
Dorsett confirmed that the Court of Appeal heard his client’s appeal on Friday against a High Court decision to refuse an application for an injunction to suspend the completion of the vessel’s sale.
“The ownership of the vessel was known by the Government prior to the seizure and auction, and it was never abandoned. We are seeking the return of the vessel to its rightful and lawful owner through the proper process and legal means. This hearing is a step in that process that stops the sale of Alfa Nero by the Government, which has no right to its ownership,” Dorsett said Saturday
Adding, “We are grateful to have been able to put our case in front of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in relation to this matter. We await judgement but are confident that the Court will recognise the reasons why an injunction to stop the sale is crucial, particularly as there are numerous matters that need to be addressed, including the hurried and unconstitutional law change that enabled the Government to seize the vessel in the first instance.”
The government filed a counter-appeal against the judge’s decision, which was also heard on Friday, but the Court has reserved its decision on both appeals.
Dorsett’s client claims that the government knew the yacht’s ownership before the seizure and auction, and it was never abandoned.
Dorsett expressed confidence that the Court will recognize the need for an injunction to prevent the completion of the vessel’s sale.
The government is now negotiating with the second bidder after the winning bidder withdrew from the purchase due to ongoing legal challenges.