Italy seizes superyacht linked to Putin

After weeks of investigation, Italian authorities announced on Friday night that they had seized a nearly $700 million superyacht, saying its owner had “significant economic and commercial ties” with “prominent elements of the Russian government. “. According to US officials, the highlight is none other than Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.

In recent days, the Scheherazade, as the huge luxury ship is named, has shown signs of being ready to set sail, apparently aiming to leave before the Italian government can seize it. But on Friday night Italian police boarded the yacht – which is 459 feet long, with two helicopter decks, a gym and a swimming pool that can be converted into a dance floor – and told the crew that the ship was going nowhere. The Italian Ministry of Finance announced that an investigation had established that the owner of the ship, whom it did not name, was an individual who “threatened international peace and security” and that the actions of the individual amounted to “impair or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.

The ministry also pointed to the urgency of implementing the restrictions as a reason to freeze the floating and hugely expensive asset.

Italian authorities, which have been actively seizing villas and yachts belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarchs, said in a statement they had seized the ship, which is in the dry dock at the port of Marina di Carrara on the coast. northern Tuscany, even though the person they had identified as its technical owner was not currently on a European sanctions list. They added that they could not name the individual until the European Council releases the name, and the Italian government committee responsible for protecting the country’s financial security has requested that the person’s name be added to the list.

Italian media have been reporting for weeks that Eduard Khudainatov, a Russian oil tycoon who is currently not under sanctions, owns the yacht. Mr Khudainatov is seen as close to Igor Sechin, a powerful oligarch and close friend of Mr Putin who is currently under sanctions. Italian financial police officials contacted on Friday evening declined to say who owned the ship.

The captain and president of the Marina di Carrara shipyard, where the Scheherazade was refitted and wintered for two consecutive years, have denied claims by US intelligence services, construction workers, crew members and locals of the small port to which the ship unofficially belongs. to, and is for the use of, Mr. Putin. They argued that, on paper, it belonged to a Russian individual who was not sanctioned by international authorities.

The ship’s captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce, recently told The New York Times that its owner was not on the sanctions list, but also denied seeing or meeting Mr Putin on the yacht.

Yet a former member of Scheherazade’s crew told The New York Times that he had never heard of Mr. Khudainatov and confirmed that crew members still believed and said the real owner was Mr. . Putin.

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