Italy freezes $700 million mega-yacht linked to “prominent elements of the Russian government”

The Italian finance minister has adopted a decree that will impede a mega-yacht from sailing away from a Tuscan port, after an investigation carried out by Italy’s financial police corps indicated the luxury vessel Scheherazade has links to “prominent elements of the Russian government.”

There had been fears that the 459-foot long yacht, which has been in dry dock in the port of Marina di Carrara, was preparing to sail out of Italian waters soon. Based on the Italian investigation, Minister Daniele Franco adopted a “freezing decree” regarding the yacht, which flies the flag of the Cayman Islands and which had “long been under the attention of the authorities,” the statement said.

ITALY-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT
Italy’s financial police patrol boat is seen in front of the multi-million-dollar mega yacht Scheherazade, docked at the Tuscan port of Marina di Carrara, Tuscany, on May 6, 2022, after its basin was reflooded. 

FEDERICO SCOPPA/AFP via Getty Images


A few weeks after Russia’s war against Ukraine began, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a speech to Italian lawmakers, urged Italy to continue freezing assets of Russian oligarchs and officials. He cited by name the Scheherazade, which, according to some reports, belongs to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Italian ministry statement didn’t identify the boat’s owner nor specify who are the “prominent” elements of the Russian government. But it said the “actual owner” of the Scheherazade should be included in the 2014 EU sanctions list.

Italian media have reported that the ship is registered to Eduard Khudainatov, a former executive at Russia’s state-owned Rosneft oil company, who has not been sanctioned. 

Khudainatov is at the center of another mega yacht dispute in Fiji, where police moved Thursday to seize the $300 million Amadea. American officials say the Amadea is owned by Suleiman Kerimov, a sanctioned Russian oligarch, who built his fortune in gold mining. A Fijian lawyer for the company the Amadea is registered to argued in court that the ship is owned by Khudainatov.

The news comes as western nations are cracking down on sanctions against Russian billionaires by taking control of their mega yachts and other valuable assets, including villas and private jets, parked in territory over which their governments have jurisdiction. In early April, American and Spanish law enforcement agents took control of a mega yacht owned by an oligarch who’s close to Putin. 

In March, Italy said it seized a $70 million yacht belonging to Alexey Alexandrovits Mordaschov, a steel magnate with close ties to the Kremlin. It also froze Lena, a $54 million yacht belonging to Gennady Nikolayevich Timchenko, a close friend of Putin, whom the EU has sanctioned. 

The seizures have caused some — possibly including Putin — to rush to move their boats into friendlier waters. 



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