Officials across Europe are seizing the yachts of rich and powerful Russian Oligarchs due to sanctions put in place following that country’s invasion of Ukraine. One mysterious vessel in the Tuscan port town of Marina di Carrara is under scrutiny for its over-the-top secrecy as the possible superyacht of a well-connected Oligarch. It’s rumored to be the vessel of Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.
The Scheherazade is a 459-foot superyacht almost as long as a U.S. guided-missile destroyer. It’s estimated to have cost $700 million and is one of only 14 such vessels in the world of such an enormous size, the New York Times reports. It’s also the only vessel in that cohort to completely obscure the owner.
From the Times:
The mystery about the ship’s owner arose because — even for the hyper-confidential world of superyachting — there is an unusual degree of secrecy surrounding this vessel. Not only do contractors and crew members sign nondisclosure agreements, as on many superyachts, but the ship also has a cover to hide its name plate. And when it first arrived at the port, workers erected a tall metallic barrier on the pier to partly obscure the yacht from onlookers. Some locals remarked that they had never seen anything like it for other boats.
In his State of the Union address last week, President Biden announced a Justice Department task force to go after oligarchs close to Mr. Putin and facing sanctions in response to Russia’s 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 depart, claiming it was owned by a man on that list: Igor Sechin, the head of the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. In Italy, police in Sanremo impounded Lena, a yacht belonging to Gennady Timchenko, a Putin friend who controls an oil exporting company. In nearby Imperia, police also impounded the Lady M, a yacht belonging to Alexei Mordashov, Russia’s richest man. The fate of the Dilbar, one of the world’s biggest yachts that the United States says belongs to the oligarch Alisher Usmanov, is unclear. It is in Hamburg, and German officials said the vessel could not leave without an export waiver, Bloomberg News reported.
Some of the biggest superyachts are owned by Russians who are not on the sanctions list. The world’s second-largest, Eclipse, which has a missile defense system and a mini submarine, is owned by Roman Abramovich, the billionaire who is selling his ownership stake in the British soccer club Chelsea. Andrey Melnichenko, a billionaire coal baron, owns Sailing Yacht A.
Locals jokingly call the Scheherazade “Putin’s boat” and told the Times they’ve heard Russian being spoken on its decks. Indeed, 70 percent of the crew are Russian nationals. The rumors are so intense that Italian officials went through the ownership documents on the boat on Monday. The captain of the Scheherazade insisted to the Times that yacht is not owned by Putin but wouldn’t say who did own the vessel due to that watertight NDA. He also said hiring Russians came down to economics rather than nationality. Indeed, the Scheherazade was assumed for a long time to be owned by a Middle Eastern oil tycoon, having once spent a considerable amount of time in the Red Sea, but has sailed to the popular Russian resort town Sochi the past two summers.
It’s a tantalizing prospect and a chance to really needle Putin or one of his closer supporters. We will update this blog when and if we find out for sure who owns the Scheherazade.