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Italy orders seizure of $700 million yacht suspected to be owned by Putin

Megayacht Scheherazade (DrDuu 007/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Italian authorities have ordered the seizure of a $700 million superyacht that media reports and activists have linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Italian Finance Ministry said in a statement on May 6 that police investigations have indicated the owner of the boat had links to “prominent elements of the Russian government” and with people who have been hit by European Union sanctions.

The 140-meter Scheherazade has been undergoing repairs in the Italian port of Marina di Carrara near the seaside town of Massa for the past six months.

But recent activity suggested the crew of the yacht could be preparing to sail out to sea.

The ownership of the Scheherazade has been the subject of an investigation by financial police in Italy.

Before the latest order, a source close to the Italian police told the AFP news agency that “it’s not always easy to attribute ownership” of a yacht.

The ship, built by the German firm Luerssen in 2020, has two helicopter pads, a swimming pool, and a movie theater, according to the SuperYachtFan website.

On March 21, the team of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny published details about the superyacht, which they suspect belongs to Putin.

The team said in a video on its YouTube channel that all crew members, except the captain, of the Scheherazade are Russian citizens, and many of them are employed by the Federal Protection Service, the agency responsible for Putin’s personal security.

Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine and the war that followed has sparked several rounds of crippling sanctions from the United States, the European Union, and many other allied countries against Russia, Putin, and many of the companies and billionaire oligarchs around him.

As part of the sanctions, several nations — including the United States, Spain, France, and Italy — have impounded yachts believed to be owned by targeted Russian oligarchs, leading some wealthy Russians to sail their vessels to places felt safe from Western sanctions, such as Turkey.

Most recently, authorities in Fiji seized a Russian-owned superyacht on May 5 under a U.S. warrant as part of the sanctions imposed by Washington on Moscow over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The seizure came two days after the Suva High Court said it had granted the order to seize the $300 million superyacht Amadea, which U.S. authorities say is owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.

“This ruling should make clear that there is no hiding place for the assets of individuals who violate U.S. laws. And there is no hiding place for the assets of criminals who enable the Russian regime,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement on May 5.