U.K. Gov’t Seizes 192-Ft Russian Superyacht As Global Crackdown Continues

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The U.K. government has seized a superyacht measuring some 192 feet long amid the worldwide crackdown on high-dollar assets connected to wealthy Russians. This crackdown has proceeded during global efforts to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin and his cronies financially accountable for the ongoing war in Ukraine, where Putin’s forces recently invaded and have been inflicting devastation ever since. Over 600 targets inside Russia have been affected by U.S. sanctions, and related moves include an announced ban in the U.S. on Russian energy imports and a joint initiative between the U.S. and European Union to lower Europe’s dependence on energy from Russia.

The large yacht that has been seized by British authorities is the first such vessel to be brought under that government’s control since the crackdown connected to the war in Ukraine began. The yacht is worth (in U.S. currency) some $50 million, and it’s called the Phi, although the Russian businessman who owns the vessel has not been publicly identified by British authorities. U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the person who owned the superyacht wasn’t currently on sanctions lists but harbored “close connections” to Putin. The ownership of the vessel was “deliberately well hidden,” according to the U.K. government — among other notable facets of the yacht’s handling, it was registered to a company based in the Caribbean islands of St. Kitts and Nevis but bore Maltese flags. Shapps added that the seizure constituted “a clear and stark warning to Putin and his cronies… The ship won’t be going anywhere for the time being… People who have benefited from [Mr. Putin’s] regime cannot benefit from sailing around London and the UK in ships like this.”

According to a Tuesday BBC report, “UK officials boarded Phi in Canary Wharf, east London on Tuesday. The vessel was in the capital for a superyacht awards ceremony and was due to depart at 12:00.” A March 24 report from Reuters laid out how the Swiss government had seized some $6.17 billion worth of Russian assets covered by sanctions — so just to be clear, the impacts of these sanctions and the related seizures are wide-reaching. Information on seizures in Switzerland came from Erwin Bollinger, a high-ranking official at the country’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), who explained: “The cited number of far over 5 billion francs [worth of seized Russian assets] relates to a snapshot in time… With further reports coming in and potential additions to EU sanctions lists, which Switzerland would also assume, it is likely this number will rise further.” Switzerland isn’t a member of the European Union, but it has adopted the alliance’s sanctions. Seizures haven’t dominated the U.S. response to the war in Ukraine, but the U.S. Justice Department recently stated that U.S. law enforcement personnel had provided information to sources outside the country to assist with certain seizures.