The Antigua and Barbuda government says it has not received any official communication from Britain regarding two yachts docked in their port which international media outlets claim belong to Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire owner of the English football club Chelsea.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas told reporters that Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin has not indicated whether or not he has received official documents from London “in pursuit of this particular matter”.
“While the Antigua and Barbuda government itself has not sanctioned any of these persons. The whole question of us recognising our role in this particular endeavour, securing our own jurisdiction from any potential post liabilities that may occur with these matters, we have to tread carefully,” Nicholas added.
Abramovich is among several Russian billionaires identified by Europe and North America for sanctions as a result of their close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin who sent troops into Ukraine last month.
Nicholas told reporters that there were options open to St John’s should it receive a request from London to ensure that the yachts are not allowed to break the sanctions.
“Probably the most that can happen in the circumstances, and I speak guardedly, is that if it comes to a point, where if there is any requirement for the UK government to pursue these boats, we may just ask them to leave our borders.”
“In that case, we would have discharged our obligation based on where we would have made those commitments,” Nicholas said, reiterating that the Attorney General had not yet received any documentation from London on the matter.
British media reports said that the two yachts, while they are registered to a firm in the British Virgin Islands, could most likely be the property of Abramovich, who is also seeking to sell his English football club.
They said that London has asked St John’s for assistance in forcing sanctions against him but that the matter is proving to be complicated, including the need for a court order to determine the owners of the yachts.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Sanders, speaking on a British television programme, said a letter from the British Virgin Islands authorities indicated that Abramovich is the beneficial owner of the company with which the yachts are registered.
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