Update: Fortune has confirmed it is Putin’s yacht. Let the target practice begin!
Around the world, Russian oligarchs and government heads are seeing their yachts and assets seized. Every possible effort has been made to cripple those at the top of Russian wealth and power, as a means to stop the bloodshed. This was after its invasion of Ukraine. But this 435-foot superyacht’s ownership has been veiled in secrecy. Yet, every indication leads to Russian head Vladimir Putin. Can the superyacht finally be seized?
The Russian invasion of Ukraine means Russian assets are being seized worldwide
Just last week, Italy seized Russian billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko’s 470-foot sailing yacht A, worth $578 million. Melnichenko was placed on the EU sanctions list earlier this year. That means open season on his assets over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But the real prize would be seizing the assets of Putin. And this superyacht is attracting extra scrutiny. Its past and present remain obscured in off-shore businesses and oblique ownership. But there are too many signs that this is one of Putin’s toys.
The Scheherazade is a 460-foot superyacht, spotted currently in the NCA Refit in Carrara, Italy. The Scheherazade’s ownership is mired in a complex and mysterious world. Secrecy has been first and foremost with the Scheherazade’s origins.
Mystery surrounds the Scheherazade
Whoever owns it has been hyper-clever in obscuring his or her identity. So is it Putin’s superyacht? At this juncture, it is almost impossible to tell.
Remember the Panama Papers? There were 11.5 million files originating from the Panama law firm of Mossak Fonseca. Many of the loans shepherded by the firm had their origins with Putin.
Follow the money
No matter what you’re investigating, you always follow the money. But in the case of the Panama Papers, over $2 billion led to Putin. So how could it? Because all of the loans led to those in his inner circle, and his relatives.
And with Putin’s estimated wealth at over $200 billion, a yacht such as this would be a drop in the bucket. Diversification is imperative when you’re super-rich. So dumping a few million into a yacht of obscured ownership is just good financial sense, right?
But as Superyacht News says, “Whoever does own it has done a mighty fine job of making it look like it’s Putin’s.” Like how? Assigned to the yacht are 70 Russian crewmembers. Then there is the cover hiding the yacht’s nameplate. And there is some kind of shield that makes its identification impossible.
The Scheherazade’s ownership trail is so oblique it’s crazy
Why would the owner of the yacht go to these extremes to hide the identification of the yacht and its ownership trail? The NCA Refit, knowing the scrutiny the Scheherazade has been under, released a statement. “The Italian Sea Group, on the basis of the documentation in its possession and following the findings of the checks carried out by the relevant authorities, declares that the 140m yacht Scheherazade, currently in the shipyard for maintenance works, is not attributable to the property of Russia President Vladimir Putin.”
The legal owner of the yacht is Bielor Asset Ltd., registered in the Marshall Islands. Under the circumstances, the Italian Sea Group’s statement is rock solid. Putin’s name would never be linked to anything this ostentatious. There is no way anyone could prove otherwise. With the kind of fortune that Putin possesses, anything from secrecy to espionage, to cold-blooded murder, is only a cash payment away.