A giant superyacht said to be owned by Vladimir Putin was seized by Italian authorities on Friday after the E.U. recommended it be impounded as part of sanctions against Russia.

Authorities in Italy said the $700 million Scheherazade, which is more than 4500-foot long and boasts spas, swimming pools, and two helicopter pads, was connected to a “significant person” but did not name him or her.

The yacht has been the subject of an investigation by the Italian financial police since March. Since September, it has been in the dock at Marina di Carrara near Pisa undergoing a refit.

The late-night announcement came after fears grew that The Scheherazade was about to slip away, head to international waters, and avoid any possible sanctions.


A week of entertainment news in your in-box.
We find the news you need to know, so you don't have to.

In recent days there has been a flurry of activity around the yacht. It emerged that most of the Russian crew had been spirited away in the middle of the night and replaced by a British contingent.

A statement from the Italian Financial Police said: “After verification by the fiscal authorities, it has come to light that there is a significant economic connection between the owner of The Scheherazade and senior elements of the Russian government. On the basis of these elements, it has been recommended that the yacht be placed on the current European Union sanctions list and the Minister of Finance in Rome has agreed.”

The Scheherazade‘s captain, Briton Guy Bennett-Pearce, has denied Putin is the owner but has refused to reveal who he is.

There have been claims that the vessel may belong to Eduard Khudainatov, a Russian oil tycoon who sanctions have not hit yet. He is the former chairman and chief executive of Rosneft, the state-owned Russian company that deals in oil and gas. Khudainatov is close to Igor Sechin, a Putin ally and chairman of Rosneft.

But activists and investigative journalists linked to Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, are convinced that it belongs to Putin.

Putin's super yacht The Scheherazade (Image: Wikimedia)

Putin’s super yacht The Scheherazade (Image: Wikimedia)

They obtained information that suggested that many of the yacht’s crew were members of the Federal Protection Service, the agency that provides security for Putin and his acolytes.

The decision to seize the Cayman islands-registered yacht after Navalny supporter Maria Pevchikh posted on Twitter: “Ok guys we have a problem, Putin’s secret $700 million yacht is about to escape sanctions by simply taking off from Italy. It’s a matter of days now. The Italian authorities are doing nothing to stop it. So we should.”

A probe into the vessel’s crew revealed that almost all of them worked for either the FSB or FSO – Russian secret services charged with protecting Putin – and routinely flew to and from Moscow on shift rotations.

The only crew member who did not work for the secret service was Captian Bennett Pierce.

A worker involved in the yacht’s construction told the reporters: “Every surface is marble or gold. There are countless swimming pools, a spa, a sauna, a theatre, ballrooms, a gym, and two helipads. It’s like a mini-city. There is even a hospital which makes sense when you hear rumors of Putin being terminally ill. It is hard to swallow the fact that the most incredible ship in the world is owned by a man intent on bombing civilians in Ukraine. And it is an unimaginable amount of wealth when the average Russian’s salary is £5,000 a year, and people there are struggling to eat.”

Leave a comment

Read more about: