There’s a $700 million superyacht hanging out in Italy and no one knows who owns it, but multiple sources suggest it belongs to Russian President Vladimir Putin. An investigation into the ownership has been going on for weeks but that information is hidden by various shell companies according to several news sources. The Scheherazade has been docked at the port of Marina di Carrara in Italy since the fall of 2020 while it is undergoing repairs.
Suzy Dimitrova, who owns a boat in the marina, said, “It’s the largest yacht I’ve ever seen here. There are people cleaning it all the time. The last time I saw it leave [the shipyard] was last year. We’re all wondering who the owner is.”
Italian authorities are investigating to see if the yacht is owned by any Russians who have been sanctioned. Meanwhile, investigative journalist Maria Pevchikh and anti-corruption activist Georgy Alburov said the crew members, except the captain, are all Russian. This information came from a crew list that was dated December 2020. In a video posted to Youtube, they claim some of the staff worked for Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO) which is an agency that handles security for high-ranking officials, including the Russian president.
On Twitter, Pevchikh wrote: “They are Russian state employees, military personnel, and they regularly travel to Italy as a group to work on the mysterious yacht.”
Shipyard workers and visitors to the marina say Russians have been supervising the work done on the yacht and that they have been seen having drinks or playing pool in the evenings at the private lounge. Now, however, reports have surfaced that the crew has suddenly abandoned ship, and, according to the local leader of Italy’s General Confederation of Labor trade union, Paolo Gozzani, they have been replaced with a British crew.
Putin’s Yacht, Or Not?
The yacht’s captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce, claims Putin doesn’t own the ship but has yet to disclose the actual owner’s name. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to Italy’s Parliament regarding the mysterious ship. He said Putin and his rich supporters were known to frequently go to Italy for vacations and that they should have their assets blocked. He added: “Don’t be a resort for murderers. Lock all their real estate, accounts, and yachts – from the Scheherazade to the smallest ones.”
If Putin isn’t the owner of the megayacht, then who is? The website Superyacht Fan seems to believe the ship’s owner is likely Eduard Khudainatov, former president of Rosneft, a Russian energy company that deals with the production and refining of natural gas and petroleum. Khudainatov left Rosneft and bought two gas companies: Geotex and Payakha. He also owns Neftegazholding (NNK) which operates gas and oil fields in Russia and Kazakhstan.
But Italian police say Khudainatov is not the owner. Journalist Jacopo Iacoboni said, “He seems to be a man connected with Putin’s inner circle but not so rich as to own a yacht like the Scheherazade.”
Earlier this month, Italian police seized Alexei Mordashov’s and Gennady Timchenko’s yachts. The former was the richest man in Russia before he was blacklisted by the European Union and the latter is a billionaire with ties to Putin. To date, Italian authorities have frozen more than 800 million euros in assets from Russian oligarchs as well as villas in Tuscany, the Lake Como area, Liguria, and Sardinia.
The 459-foot Scheherazade has two helicopter decks, a wood-burning fireplace, a spa, a swimming pool with a retractable cover that can convert to a dance floor, a gym, and a pool table that is designed to tilt to reduce the impact of waves. It also reportedly has the ability to shoot down drones.
~ Read more from Kelli Ballard.