Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Scheherazade: Vladimir Putin’s £570m Superyacht Seized By Italian Authorities

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The Italian government has seized a luxury superyacht worth an estimated £570m that is believed to be linked to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The vessel was impounded as part of the EU’s sanctions against Russia for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, under which similar yachts belonging to Russian oligarchs have been confiscated.

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The six-deck Scheherazade had been undergoing repairs in the port of Marina di Carrara in Tuscany since last September. Recent activity at the dockside suggested that the crew were preparing to put the yacht to sea, as calls grew for it to be included in the sanctions.

The Italian finance ministry said in a statement that the owner of the yacht had ties to “prominent elements of the Russian government”, without naming them. US officials have previously told The New York Times that the vessel could belong to Mr Putin, though there has been no official confirmation of this.

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Supporters of the imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny were also of the belief that the vessel belonged to the Russian president. In a report released in March, an organisation set up by Mr Navalny said it had evidence that the boat belonged to Mr Putin, as several crew members were drawn from Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO), which is tasked with protecting the president.

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In March, the ship’s British captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce, denied that Mr Putin had ever owned or set foot on the Scheherezade. “I have never seen him. I have never met him,” he told the The New York Times.

Days later, Mr Bennett-Pearce said he had been left with “no choice” but to reveal the owner’s identity to the Italian police, adding: “I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that this will clear the vessel of all negative rumours and speculations.”

Police boarded the yacht – which is over 450ft long and has two helicopter landing pads – late on Friday to execute the order, the government said.

Officials said they had struggled to identify the real owner of the boat, as it is registered in the Cayman Islands and was built by the German firm Lürssen. The yacht was delivered to its owner in 2020 and can host up to 18 guests and 40 crew.

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Italian authorities said the owner was not on any sanctions lists drawn up by Brussels since Mr Putin’s declaration of war on 24 February, although Rome has asked Brussels to rectify this.

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Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, while addressing the Italian parliament in March, urged the government to impound the yacht as part of the EU’s efforts to put pressure on Mr Putin.

Italy confiscated yachts and villas worth over £770m in March and April from Russian billionaires with close ties to Mr Putin, in a bid to hurt Moscow financially.

Earlier in March, Italy seized a £530m megayacht owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, as oligarchs around the world scrambled to save their yachts and other luxury assets from western governments.

And in April the German authorities seized the world’s largest superyacht, Dilbar, sprawling over 512ft, which belonged to billionaire Alisher Usmanov before he transferred its ownership to his sister.

Photo Credit: Getty

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