Italian Government Seizes Mega-Yacht Linked To Vladimir Putin

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Italian officials have impounded a large yacht worth some $700 million that has been linked by some — including the team of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny — to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. Seizures of high-dollar assets associated with wealthy Russians have taken place throughout the course of the currently unfolding war between Russia and Ukraine, although the value of this newly impounded vessel seems to place it among the most pricey items targeted in some form by governing authorities.

Italian authorities didn’t publicly identify who they’d singled out as the owner of the yacht, which is called the Scheherazade, although the country’s officials said the individual had “prominent” ties to people already covered by European Union sanctions. Italian leadership also said they’d asked for the inclusion of the yacht’s owner among those covered by European Union sanctions. Repair work on the large vessel had evidently been unfolding since before Russia launched its currently unfolding invasion of Ukraine, but recently, the yacht was returned to the water, suggesting — at least to some — it could soon leave Italian waters and thereby end up outside the reach of authorities hoping to hold wealthy Russians financially accountable in connection to violence in Ukraine.

Italy “proposed to the Council of the European Union the inclusion of the owner of the boat in the list… Until then, the name cannot be public,” according to a spokesperson for the country’s Finance Ministry. An investigation shared earlier this year by the Italian newspaper La Stampa identified ex-Russian oil executive Eduard Khudainatov as the yacht’s owner — although he’s evidently not even a billionaire, at least according to available information. The newspaper itself noted the discrepancy between Khudainatov’s apparent wealth and the financial holdings one would expect to the associated with the large, pricey yacht’s owner. Meanwhile, individuals working with Navalny have shared a list of purported crew members for the yacht — a list apparently including members of the Russian government agency that personally guards Putin. “We think that this is a solid enough proof that Scheherazade belongs to Putin himself and must be immediately seized,” Maria Pevchikh said. She leads an investigative team Navalny founded.

For now, questions related to the yacht remain. Recently, law enforcement in Fiji working on behalf of the United States seized a $300 million, 348-foot yacht called the Amadea that belongs to Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, who’s under U.S. sanctions. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia “found that the Amadea is subject to forfeiture based on probable cause of violations of U.S. law, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), money laundering and conspiracy,” U.S. authorities say. “Kerimov and those acting on his behalf and for his benefit caused U.S. dollar transactions to be routed through U.S. financial institutions for the support and maintenance of the Amadea,” the Justice Department further explains — circumstances that presumably helped establish U.S. jurisdiction over the vessel.