A superyacht believed to be owned by Russian president Vladimir Putin was “frozen” by Italian authorities Friday before the ship could set sail from port.
The $700 million, 459-foot Scheherazade, worth approximately $700 million, had been under investigation since March, when Italian authorities boarded the ship as part of the European Union’s sanctions against Russian oligarchs in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
While Scheherazade’s ownership was under question, anti-corruption journalists working with jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny long claimed that the ship belonged to Putin; U.S. officials also linked the Scheherazade to Putin, the New York Times reported.
ATTENTION!!! THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
The Scheherezade, also known as Putin's secret super yacht, has just been arrested in Italy.
Here is the press release from the Guardia di Finanza.
— Maria Pevchikh (@pevchikh) May 6, 2022
A subsequent report by Italian newspaper La Stampa connected the Scheherazade through shell companies to Russian oligarch Eduard Yurievich Khudainatov, former president of Russian oil company Rosneft, though his “ownership” is believed to obfuscate the real owner of the ship.
(Forbes notes that Khudainatov — who does not face EU sanctions — is also accused of being a “proxy” owner of the Amadea, a superyacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.)
The investigation into the Scheherazade — dry-docked at the Marina di Carrara since September for maintenance — hastened in recent days as it appeared the ship was preparing to imminently set sail, which would have removed it from the jurisdiction of EU sanctions. Before that could happen, however, the Italian Minister of Economy and Finance announced a “freezing decree” of the Scheherazade before it could leave the dock.
In announcing the freeze, the Minister of Economy and Finance Daniele Franco said their investigation found “the presence of significant economic and business links of the beneficial owner of the boat Scheherazade with prominent elements of the Russian government.”
If Putin did in fact own the Scheherazade, he didn’t have much time to enjoy it: Forbes reports that the ship was built in 2020, and that some of its perks included an on-ship movie theater, beauty salon, spa and helicopter pad.
The Scheherazade is the latest superyacht targeted in the ongoing sanctions against Russian oligarchs, following the seizure of Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s custom-built 512-foot yacht Dilbar as well as the Amore Vero, a superyacht belonging to Igor Sechin, the Russian oil oligarch dubbed “Darth Vader.”