Italy Seizes $700M Superyacht

Italian authorities seized the $700 million superyacht Scheherazade on suspicion it was owned by Russians under Western sanctions.

Italy’s Economy and Finance Minister Daniele Franco signed a decree on May 6 to confiscate the superyacht Scheherazade after the country’s economic police launched an investigation into its owner.

The ministry statement said the investigation identified “key business and economic links between the owner of the Scheherazade yacht and a celebrity in the Russian government,” as well as Russians on the list of Western sanctions after Moscow launched a military operation in February of Ukraine had started 24.

However, the Italian authorities have not yet established who the actual owner of the yacht is.

The Italian Economic Police patrol boat in front of the giant yacht Scheherazade anchored in the port of Marina di Carrara in Tuscany on May 6.  Photo: AFP

The Italian Economic Police patrol boat is parked in front of the giant yacht Scheherazade, moored at the port of Marina di Carrara in Tuscany, May 6. Picture: AFP

The approximately $700 million Scheherazade yacht has been undergoing maintenance for the past few months at a shipyard in Marina di Carrara, the town of Massa on Italy’s west coast. The yacht appeared to be about to put to sea on May 6, before Italian authorities announced the seizure order.

Scheherazade was built in 2020 by the German factory Luerssen. The yacht is 140 meters long, has two helipads, a swimming pool and a cinema.

Italian police said in late March that trying to identify the yacht’s owner was “no easy task”. A source close to the Italian police said on May 6 the investigation had “found nothing new”.

The Scheherazade yacht was tested by the L├╝rssen factory in 2019.  Photo: Wikipedia.

The Scheherazade yacht was tested by the Luerssen factory in 2019. Photo: Wikipedia.

Western countries have repeatedly confiscated yachts belonging to Russian magnates. In March, the French Treasury seized the Amore Vero, a $281 million superyacht owned by Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian oil giant Rosneft. In April, Spain also seized a $90 million yacht belonging to a Russian billionaire at the request of Washington.

US President Joe Biden has proposed liquidating the confiscated assets of Russian oligarchs and using the money to support Ukraine. This proposal would require a change in legislation from the US Congress, since under current rules the US can only seize, but not liquidate, the assets of individuals subject to sanctions.

Hong Hanh (Corresponding AFP)