HONG KONG, Oct 8 — Hong Kong could damage its reputation as a financial hub if it gives haven to sanctions dodgers, the United States cautioned Saturday, after the city said it would not act against a superyacht reportedly owned by a Kremlin ally.

The Nord — a US$500 million (RM2.3 billion), 142-metre luxury vessel linked to Russian billionaire Alexei Mordashov — arrived in the Chinese territory’s waters this week.

Mordashov is among the oligarchs who are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and have been targeted by Western sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Some of them have had their luxury yachts seized in places such as Spain and Fiji, but Hong Kong said Friday that while it implements UN sanctions, it cannot enforce those imposed “unilaterally” by countries or blocs.

“The possible use of Hong Kong as a safe haven by individuals evading sanctions from multiple jurisdictions further calls into question the transparency of the business environment,” a US State Department spokesperson told AFP in response.

“Hong Kong’s reputation as a financial centre depends on adherence to international laws and standards.”

Yachts owned by those close to Putin have become targets for Ukraine’s Western allies, who are hunting for the assets of sanctioned figures as they seek to punish Moscow for the Ukraine invasion.

In March, Italy seized the Lady M, a yacht belonging to Mordashov, citing European Union sanctions.

China has conspicuously not condemned the invasion of Ukraine, and said it has a “no-limits” relationship with Russia.

A spokesperson for Mordashov told Bloomberg News this week that the billionaire was in Moscow and declined to comment on the yacht’s movements.

The Nord — which boasts two helipads, a cinema and more than a dozen luxury cabins — switched its flag from the Cayman Islands to Russia in June.

It was anchored in the eastern Russian port of Vladivostok before making its way to Hong Kong. — AFP