The Italian government ordered the seizing of a luxury yacht valued at $700m (PS530m), which was linked in the media with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Although the six-deck Scheherazade was being repaired in Marina di Carrara, Italy since September, recent activity on the dockside suggests that the crew may be getting ready to go to sea.
It is one the most luxurious and expensive yachts in the world, allegedly owned by Russian billionaires. It has two landing pads for helicopters and can accommodate up to 18 guests as well as 40 crew.
In a statement, the Italian finance ministry stated that it had found evidence that the boat’s owner was connected to “prominent elements in the Russian government” as well as people who were subject to sanctions by the European Union.
Although the Scheherazade’s owner is not known, there are rumours that it belonged to Vladimir Putin and a member his inner circle.
Reuters was told by a source who had direct knowledge of the investigation into this vessel that the owner was Eduard Khudainatov. He is the former chief of Rosneft, a Russian energy giant. The EU has not yet sanctioned him.
Although the finance ministry didn’t name the owner of the yacht, it said that it had requested the European Union to add him to the sanctions list. It also ordered the yacht to remain seized while the decision is made.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, urged Italian officials in March to seize Scheherazade’s yacht and other assets that were allegedly linked with Russian oligarchs.
Other countries, including the US and Gibraltar authorities, have taken yachts and megayachts from their owners who have connections to Mr Putin or Russian oligarchs.
Some Western countries, including the US, have taken over yachts and other luxury assets belonging to Russians as a response to Russia’s invasion in Ukraine.