Nonpartisan watchdog group raises questions about $40m yacht tied to DeVos family

Yacht registered to Cayman Islands despite never visiting the territory

Nonpartisan watchdog group raises questions about $40m yacht tied to DeVos family
Nonpartisan watchdog group raises questions about $40m yacht tied to DeVos family

Investigative watchdog group Checks and Balances Project has questions about a luxury yacht tied to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The nonpartisan group wants to know if the DeVos family is avoiding paying millions of dollars in taxes on the luxury yacht.

These allegations come after an investigation into nearly a decade of travel reports from the DeVos family’s luxury vessel -- adding to a list of potential ethical violations that have plagued the Secretary since she was put in place.

The Checks and Balances Project investigates corruption and advocates good governance. The investigation centers on DeVos' $40 million yacht “The Seaquest," which is registered to a foreign territory.

“We were surprised. In the last seven years, the DeVos' yacht has not visited its home port in the Cayman Islands -- where it’s registered -- even once,” said Scott Peterson with the Checks and Balances Project.

Maps provided by the group show the 157 foot yacht docking in locations around the Great Lakes, the east coast of the U.S. and the Caribbean, but never in the Cayman Islands. The Checks and Balances Project are questioning whether the DeVos family has avoided paying nearly $17 million in taxes.

“It’s common for billionaires to use the tax code to avoid having to pay what we think might be their fair share,” Peterson said. “If it turns out to be legal -- and look, the DeVos family has an army of lawyers -- Is it fair that wealthy and powerful people can avoid these kind of taxes?”

DeVos has been the subject of several investigations going back to her nomination for secretary -- most recently for allegedly violating a federal ethics law for using her office to campaign for the president.

The Michigan director of the Bureau of Tax Policy has said the Checks and Balances Project’s findings have been sent for review.

Due to Michigan’s tax laws, the findings of any investigation would stay confidential.

When reached for a comment, a spokesperson for the DeVos family said they no longer own the yacht.

“We’re unaware of any review,” said the representative. “However, if there is an analysis, we’re confident that it will simply confirm all appropriate Michigan taxes have been paid.”

About the Authors:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.