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'Putin's £570m superyacht' seized by Italy over fears it may sail to international waters
7 May 2022, 07:41 | Updated: 7 May 2022, 12:49
A £570m superyacht said to be owned by Vladimir Putin has been seized by Italian authorities just as it appeared to be preparing to set sail.
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The Scheherazade has been undergoing repairs at a port in Marina di Carrara, off the coast of Tuscany, since September last year and is reported to belong to the Russian president.
The 140-metre yacht, which has gold-plated taps, a swimming pool, spas and two helicopter pads, and is reportedly worth £570million ($700m), has been linked to Putin despite denials from the shipyard hosting it.
It is being seized under EU sanctions brought over Russia's invasion of Ukraine that have seen other vessels confiscated.
In a statement on Friday night, Italy's finance ministry said that the boat's owner had ties to "prominent elements of the Russian government".
The late night announcement came after fears grew that The Scheherazde was about to slip away and head to international waters and avoid any possible sanctions.
The statement did not name the owner of the vessel, but said the ministry had asked the EU to place the individual on to the sanctions list. The yacht has been blocked pending the adoption of further restrictive measures.
US officials told the New York Times that the ship - which has been the subject of an investigation by the Italian financial police since the end of March - could belong to Russia's president.
Investigative journalists and supporters of the imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny have also linked the vessel to President Putin.
Other reports suggest the ship may belong to Eduard Khudainatov, a Russian oil tycoon who has not been hit by sanctions. He is the former chairman and chief executive of Rosneft, the state-owned Russian company that deals in oil and gas.
The decision to seize the Cayman islands registered yacht came 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."
The six-deck Scheherazade is one of the largest and most-expensive privately-owned boats in the world - with space equivalent to two apartment blocks.
The yacht has room for 18 guests in nine luxury cabins in addition to a crew of 40, residing in 20 cabins.
Some oligarchs placed under sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 have sought safer waters for their mega-yachts. Roman Abramovich has sent two vessels to Turkey.