Italy seizes $700 million on a mega yacht linked to Putin

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ROME – Italian financial authorities said on Friday they had seized a $700 million mega yacht that media reports and anti-Kremlin groups have linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin. But there remains an element of mystery: Italy, in what she calledFreezing DecreeHe did not say who the owner might be.

Italian investigators raced to investigate the ship and prevent it from leaving the Tuscan port of Marina di Carrara. The yacht, known as Scheherazade, has been undergoing repairs since before Russia invaded Ukraine. But this week she’s back in the water, according to A New York Times reporter who visited the dock, raising fears that the ship might leave and evade penalties.

And the ship, until the measures imposed on Friday evening, was free to leave.

Italy’s finance ministry, when announcing its move, said the yacht’s owner had “high profile” links with Russians who are already subject to EU sanctions. The name of the owner was not identified, and Italy said only that its government had asked the European Union to add the person to its sanctions list.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Finance described the Italian move as “temporary”.

The spokesman said Italy “has proposed to the Council of the European Union that the owner of the boat be included in the list.” “Until then, the name cannot be generic.”

In March, a Investigation The Italian daily La Stampa reported that the owner of the boat is Eduard Khudianatov, a former Russian oil official. But the newspaper also raised the question of how a person who is not on the billionaire’s list could buy one of the most luxurious yachts in the world.

So, speculation about Scheherazade has intensified. Investigators working for imprisoned Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny say the owner of the yacht is Putin himself. In March, Navalny’s team posted what it said was the crew List From the people who worked on the yacht. They are allegedly among them members of the Russian state agency responsible for Putin’s personal protection.

“We believe this is strong enough evidence that Scheherazade belongs to Putin himself and should be seized immediately,” said Maria Bevshikh, head of the FBK investigation team founded by Navalny.

In general, the assets of Russia’s ruling class and billionaires are kept strictly confidential, and are controlled on paper by opaque offshore companies. This has made it difficult in some cases for European countries to ascertain the true owners of villas, yachts and other luxury items. Befshikh said Scheherazade is officially owned by an offshore company from the Marshall Islands.

Before Friday, Italy managed to seize a mega yacht worth $560 million linked to Andrey Melnichenko, a coal and fertilizer magnate who is one of the ten richest people in Russia. Italy also blocked access to villas that oligarchs use as summer getaways.