Italy orders seizure of Scheherezade super yacht

Two months after investigations began into the beneficial ownership of superyacht Scheherezade (IMO 9809980), Italy has ordered the seizure of the vessel.

The Scheherazade had been undergoing repairs at a port in Tuscany since September last year.

Italy’s finance ministry said that the boat’s owner had ties to “prominent elements of the Russian government”. It has been seized under EU sanctions.

While the exact owner of the Scheherazade has not been established, US officials have told the media that “it could belong to Russia’s president”.

Supporters of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny have also linked the 140m vessel to President Putin.

Other investigations have concluded that the technical owner of the yacht, which has two helicopter landing pads and a swimming pool inside, is owned by Eduard Khudainatov, the former chief of Russian energy giant Rosneft. Khudainatov is not currently a target of EU sanctions.

In late March it was reported that the crew members aboard the Scheherazade had left their posts amid the high degree of media scrutiny of the vessel. The Russian crew members had been on the yacht and around the port of Marina di Carrara since the yacht first arrived in Q3 2020. However, the crew now seemed to have left the town for unknown destinations.

The vessel had been under investigation since early March, when the master, Captain Bennett-Pearce, told the New York Times that the ship’s paperwork would satisfy the investigators and should clear up any “rumours and speculations.”

However, a former crew member had said that the boat had been “for Putin’s use”.

Much of the problem when it comes to assets linked to Putin is that for many years he appears to have used houses and yachts nominally owned by Russian oligarchs – at which point the distinction between a “front” owner and a “real” owner doing a friend a favour becomes blurred. However, it was thought possible that, via several shell companies, Putin could have a more traceable direct degree of control over the Scheherazade.

Putin spent a significant amount of time throughout the coronavirus pandemic in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi. The Scheherazade made trips to Sochi in the summers of 2020 and 2021.

2020-built, Cayman Islands-flagged, 10,167 gt Scheherazade is owned by Bielor Asset Ltd care of Onda Mare Yacht Management of Lucca, Italy. No AIS since March 2nd.