From the German North Sea ports to the French Riviera, the season for superyachts has been declared open. Across Europe, authorities are going after luxury boats linked to the Russian oligarchs in an effort to inflict pain on allies of President Vladimir Putin.
In Marina di Carrara, a small Italian town on the Tuscan coast, one of the largest, newest and most expensive superyachts in the world – named Scheherazade– is under surveillance of the Italian police. Almost as long as an American guided missile destroyer, it dominates the waterfront.
The yacht, whose cost has been estimated by the SuperYachtFan website at around $700 millionhas two decks for helicopters and is full of domes for satellites.
Inside, photos provided by a former crew member show, there are a pool with a retractable cover which turns into a dance floor. There is also a fully equipped gym and gold accessories in the bathrooms.
In the rarefied world of the largest superyachts (only 14 measuring at least 140 meters, or 459 feet long), Scheherazade is the only one that has not publicly identified any potential owners. This fueled speculation that he could be a Middle Eastern billionaire or super-connected Russian. even from Putin.
Speculation suggests that one of the possible owners of the ship is Putin himself. Photo: AP
The captain of the ship, Guy Bennett-Pearce, a British national, denied that Putin owned or had ever been on the yacht. “I’ve never seen him. I never met him,” she said.
He added, in a telephone interview from the yacht, that its owner was not on any sanctions list. He did not rule out that the person could be Russian, but he declined to say more about the identity of the owner, citing a “confidential agreement of non-disclosure”.
Bennett-Pearce said Italian investigators had come aboard on Friday and examined some of the ship’s certification documents.
“They are thoroughly investigating. They’re looking at every aspect,” she said. “It’s not the local police that’s coming, they are men in dark suitsA person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, confirmed that the Italian financial police had opened an investigation.
On Monday night, Bennett-Pearce said he had “no choice” but to hand over documents revealing the owner’s identity to Italian authorities. He said that he would do it on Tuesday and that he had been told that it would be treated with “confidentiality”.
“I have no doubt in my mind that this will clear the ship of all negative rumors and speculation,” he wrote in a message to a New York Times reporter.
An unusual degree of secrecy
The mystery about the owner of the boat arose because – even for the hyper-confidential world of superyachts – there is an unusual degree of secrecy around the ship.
Not only do the contractors and crew members sign non-disclosure agreements, as on many superyachts, but the ship has a cover to hide your nameplate.
And when he first arrived at the port, the workers put up a tall metal barrier on the dock to hide partially the yacht of the curious. Some locals commented that they had never seen anything like it on other boats.
Super luxury yachts in Marbella. Photo: AP
President Joe Biden announced last week the creation of a joint task force with Great Britain and the European Union to pursue assets, including yachts, that they may be owned by oligarchs close to Putin and that they face sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions have been imposed against hundreds of people, and the list keeps growing.
Last week, French authorities seized the yacht Amore Vero near Marseille as it was preparing to set sail, claiming it was owned by a man on that list: Igor Sechinhead of the Russian state oil company Rosneft.
In Italy, the San Remo police confiscated the Firewooda yacht belonging to Gennady Timchenkoa friend of Putin who controls an oil exporting company.
In the nearby city of Imperia, police also seized the Lady Ma yacht belonging to Alexei Mordashov, the richest man in Russia.
The “Amore Vero”, owned by Igor Sechin, head of the Russian state oil company Rosneft. Photo: Reuters
The fate of the dilbarone of the largest yachts in the world that, according to the United States, belongs to the oligarch Alisher Usmanov. She is in Hamburg, and German authorities said the ship could not leave without an export exemption, Bloomberg News reported.
Some of the biggest superyachts are owned by Russians who are not on the sanctions list.
The second largest in the world, Eclipsewhat It has a missile defense system. and a mini submarine, is owned by Roman Abramovich, the billionaire who is selling his stake in the British soccer club Chelsea. Andrey Melnichenko, a billionaire coal baron, owns Sailing Yacht A.
The eclipse”. Russian tycoon and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s yacht rests in the Mediterranean.
Determine ownership of assets the wealthy want to keep hidden it’s hardespecially without a warrant, because they are often closely guarded by private bankers and lawyers and hidden in ghost companies dark in tax havens.
Scheherazade has Cayman Islands flag and its owner, Bielor Assets Ltd., is registered in the Marshall Islands. The yacht’s management company, which Bennett-Pearce says is also registered in the Cayman Islands, works from the boat and uses its rental villa in nearby Lucca as its address.
A commercial website, which calls itself “the world authority on superyachts”, claims that the owner of the boat is “known to be a Middle Eastern billionaire”.
The Scheherazade shares a name with the narrator of “The Arabian Nights”, and made a brief foray into the Red Sea in September 2020, calling at the Egyptian port of Hurghada. But most of the time stays in Marina di Carrarawhere it has been moored since last September.
The locals have their own theory about the ownership of the boat. Some have heard people on board speaking in Russian. And Scheherazade is also the title of a symphony by the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
“Everybody calls it Putin’s yachtbut nobody knows whose it is,” said Ernesto Rossi, a retired office worker who was strolling along the marina promenade on Friday. “It’s a rumor that’s been going around for months.”
In Italy, the phrase “Putin’s yacht” has become shorthand for a mysterious, ultra-luxurious ship. It’s also a joke among dozens of crew members, Bennett-Pearce said. “I heard the same rumours.”
Another smaller vessel, the Graceful, has long been linked to the Russian president and is known as “Putin’s yacht.”
He was tracked leaving Germany for the Russian port of Kaliningrad. just a few weeks before the invasion of Ukraine. (U.S. government officials point out that Putin owns very little in property; many of the luxurious homes or boats he uses they are owned by oligarchs).
Putin seems to have a fondness for large pleasure boats. During his time as Russia’s leader, he was photographed on yachts from the north of Russia to the Black Sea in the south. Last May, he and Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, cruised on a yacht in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.
Scheherazade’s builder, the Lurssen Group, whose website promises customers “complete confidentiality”, declined to comment on his property. Until June 2020, when the finished ship left the dock in Bremen (Germany), she had the code name “Lightning”.
The same company built a ship even bigger: the Dilbar. A similar gigantic yacht, codenamed “Luminance”, is now being built in Lurssen and is scheduled for completion next year.
“Of course, all orders and projects of the Lurssen Group and its subsidiaries are dealt with in accordance with applicable laws and regulations,” said Oliver Grun, a company spokesman.
About 70% of Scheherazade’s crew is Russian.said Bennett-Pearce. And for each of the past two summers, she has sailed to Sochi, most recently in early July 2021, according to MarineTraffic, a major maritime analytics provider.
The construction of the ship was led by Imperial Yachts, a Monaco company that, according to Reuters, manages the Amore Vero, the seized Sechin yacht. Nick Flashman, who oversees large ship construction at Imperial Yachts, declined to comment.
A former crew member, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to a confidentiality agreement, said his fellow They called it “Putin’s yacht”.
The person said the ship was manned by an international crew during “boss out” times; when “boss inside”, the crew was replaced by all-Russian personnel. In the weeks leading up to Scheherazade’s voyage to the Black Sea in 2020, the foreign crew was firedsaid this person.
The former crew member provided photos of the international and Russian crew member lists. The Times contacted at least 17 of them via social media, by phone or by email. Few responded.
One of the Russians said only that he had worked at Scheherazade, citing a confidentiality agreement. Another said it would be dangerous to talk. One man denied having worked on the ship; another said that he had not worked at sea in 25 years.
Bennett-Pearce said “categorically there is not a European crew going up and a Russian going up.” Many of the ship’s senior officers are British, New Zealand and Spanish.
Many international crew members were made redundant in 2020, replaced by Russians who they did not demand the high salaries and benefits that its predecessors had, said the captain. “The economy is down,” he said.
Given the antipathy that people outside of Russia have for Putin, if the Russian president were really the owner or primary user of the yacht, keeping non-Russian crew members like him on staff would make no sense, Bennett said. Pierce.
“If there is a European crew on board it is the biggest artifice and the biggest risk I have ever heard of,” he said.
New York Times