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A mystery owner is paying for a Putin-linked superyacht worth $700 million to be refitted while it’s impounded in Italy under EU sanctions

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A superyacht linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin is being refitted in an Italian port, despite having been impounded last year under European Union sanctions, the Financial Times reported.

Italian Sea Group SpA told the paper it’s refurbishing the 459-foot superyacht Scheherazade, and that the yacht’s owner has been paying for the “refit” and maintenance, but declined to give further details including the owner’s identity, the FT reported Sunday.

Bloomberg reported last year that US authorities allege a little-known Russian oligarch — who doesn’t appear on any recognized list of the world’s wealthiest people — has acted as the “straw owner” of the $650-million yacht.

Straw Owner’ Hides $1 Billion Worth of Russian Yachts, US Says

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s team disclosed evidence in March 2022 that the Scheherazade, which is being held at Marina di Carrara in Tuscany, was staffed with people who worked for the agency in charge of Putin’s security. Italy ordered the yacht held in May 2022, saying it’s linked to top levels of the Russian government that are under EU sanctions.

Around the globe, impounded Russian superyachts are costing millions to maintain, Bloomberg reported last year. Italian authorities have impounded at least four of the vessels, including the Scheherazade, which has two helipads and a pool that can be turned into a dance floor. Italy’s state property agency had been paying an estimated $40 million a year for their upkeep, Bloomberg said in the November report, citing people familiar with the situation.

In the case of the recent refit, Italian authorities agreed to allow the owner to pay for the “maintenance works,” the FT said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “all rumors about this are unfounded,” and a European Commission spokesperson said that member states are responsible for implementing sanctions, and that asset freezes don’t affect asset ownership, the FT reported.

— With Michael Sin



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