In the last two weeks, law enforcement authorities across Europe have swooped into ports across the continent's west coast with the goal of seizing any yachts that belong to sanctioned Russian billionaires before those yachts are able to escape to friendlier waters.
On Thursday French police seized a yacht called "Amore Vero" that was docked in a port near the town of Marseille. Amore Vero is owned by Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia's state-owned oil conglomerate, Rosneft.
Right as Amore Vero was being seized, Italian police impounded at least two yachts that were docked in a town called Imperia. One of the yachts, "Lady M," belonged to sanctioned tycoon Alexey Mordashov who has at times been the richest person in Russia. The other seized yacht, "Lena," was owned by Gennady Timchenko an oil tycoon who is reportedly a very close friend of President Vladimir Putin.
German authorities in the city of Hamburg denied initial reports that they had seized an $800 million yacht called "Dilbar" owned by Alisher Usmanov. In a statement, the German police clarified that Dilbar would not leave the shipyard, where it is currently undergoing repairs, without an "export waiver." Unclear if their subtext meant they also did not intend to issue a waiver when Dilbar concludes its repairs next month, which would be somewhat of a catch-22 for Usmanov and Dilbar.
Then there's the mystery of a 460-foot superyacht called "Scheherazade" that is currently parked in the Italian port city of Marina di Carrara. Worth an estimated $700 million, Scheherazade is one of the largest and most-valuable yachts on the planet. There are only a dozen yachts in the world that are as long or longer.
As you can see from the photo below, Scheherazade has TWO helicopter landing pads. There are no known photos of the yacht's interior, but according to some reports, inside you will find comfortable accommodation for 18 guests (not including 40 crew members), several entertaining areas and a movie theater. One of the decks is a dance floor that, when retracted, reveals a pool.
Perhaps most impressively, the boat is also reportedly equipped with a "drone crashing" system, which impressively means it can somehow shoot down pesky drones flying overhead trying to get a glimpse of the party.
The true owner of Scheherazade has been cloaked in the utmost secrecy since its construction was completed in 2020. But if you believe local rumors, Scheherazade belongs to none other than…
Just to get some legal coverage out of the way, in a phone interview conducted by the New York Times, Scheherazade's captain strongly denied that Vladimir Putin was the yacht's owner or that he had ever been aboard:
"I have never seen him. I have never met him."
The captain claimed that Scheherazade's owner was not sanctioned, but would not reveal the owner's identity due to a confidentiality agreement.
So why do locals in Marina di Carrara, where Scheherazade has been parked since September, seem convinced otherwise? To the point where the yacht is casually referred to as "Putin's yacht" around town?
First off, locals claim the boat's crew are Russian speakers. Scheherazade's captain, who is British, indeed confirmed that roughly 70% of the 40 total crew members are Russian.
Secondly, a former crew member, who spoke to the New York Times anonymously, claimed that even the crew (jokingly or not) referred to the boat as "Putin's Yacht." He or she also claimed that the boat had different crews when the true owner was aboard and not aboard, times he referred to as "boss off" and "boss on." Allegedly, the yacht would swap-out European crew members for an all-Russian crew during "boss on" times. The implication being that "boss" = Putin.
Scheherazade's captain denied that there were two sets of crews for "boss on" and "boss off" times. The captain further questioned why Putin would keep him, a British citizen, and other non-Russian crew members on staff if he truly was the owner.
On the other hand, speaking to the Daily Mail, another crew member claimed:
"All the whispers were that it belonged to Putin."
The official owner of Scheherazade is a company called Bielor Assets Ltd., which is registered in the Marshall Islands. The yacht is "flagged" in the Cayman Islands. "Flagging" signifies which country's jurisdiction the yacht sails under while in foreign waters.
Below is a video of Scheherazade's very first public sighting off the coast of Gibraltar in June 2020:
I have to say, the captain seemed pretty unshakably confident that Putin is NOT the owner of Scheherazade. And maybe that's what Italian authorities will soon confirm. Then again, maybe not?
Either way, it is clearly an incredible vessel and whoever is the true owner is almost certainly one of the 20-30 richest people on the planet.