Finland shares a long border with Russia, so it finds itself with a large number of yachts with shady origins in their docks. Officials moved quickly, barring 21 yachts from leaving their winter storage this week.
Finland is going hard on those sanctions. Trade has dropped more between Finland and its Russia neighbor than when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, custom officials said this week. So when it had the chance to stop 21 yachts possibly belonging to Russian oligarchs, officials moved fast. It’s very probable that not all of those yachts belong to oligarchs, but it’s not impossible either. It will take some time to figure out, as these boats tend to have their true ownership obscured in a maze of legal red tape. From Insider:
The customs department began telling winter storage facilities of the decision last week, according to Helsingin Sanomat, which first reported the news.
“They’re not boats an ordinary citizen would have, but they’re not 150 meters long either,” Sami Rakshit, head of the enforcement department, told Bloomberg.
“We don’t assume that all the detained yachts fall under sanctions, but that is what we are trying to determine now,” he added.
Mikko Pellikka, CEO of Yachtcare Finland, told Helsingin Sanomat his company had four yachts in storage at the Port of Loviisa.
“It’s hard to interpret whether the boats are Russian because they are registered around the globe,” he said. “We can’t say who ultimately owns the boat. Official papers do not necessarily read the names of the persons.”
It’s well known, for instance, that Russian President Vlad Putin doesn’t really own much in his own name, the New York Times reports, and that’s true for many other oligarchs, who use holding companies and shell legal entities to frustrate financial researchers.
Twenty-one yachts is quite a haul, but a bunch of boats can’t compare to the one really big fish capture in Italy last week; the Scheherazade, a $700-million superyacht which investigators believe to belong to Putin himself. It was seized by Italian officials in the Tuscan port town of Marina di Carrara. One of only 14 large privately own yachts in the world, the Scheherazade looks to belong to Putin, but it will be a long time before it is unequivocally proven.