US officials believe they have located Putin’s yacht

WASHINGTON – US officials are examining the ownership of a $700 million luxury yacht currently in a dry dock in an Italian coastal town, and they believe it could be linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to several people briefed on the information.

US intelligence agencies have not reached definitive conclusions about the ownership of the giant yacht – named Scheherazade – but US officials said they have found early indications of a link to Mr. Putin. The information came from US officials after the New York Times mentioned On Tuesday, Italian authorities were investigating ownership of the 459-foot vessel and that a former crew member said it was for Mr Putin’s use.

The people who were briefed on the intelligence did not describe the information they had that indicated that the luxury yacht was linked to Mr. Putin. If US officials knew whether or how often Mr. Putin used the yacht, the people who were briefed would not share the information.

US officials have said Putin has kept some of his fortune in his name. Instead, he uses houses and boats nominally owned by Russian oligarchs. However, it is possible that through several shell companies, Putin could have more direct control over Scheherazade.

US officials said Mr. Putin has spent a significant amount of time throughout the coronavirus pandemic in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi. Scheherazade made trips to Sochi in the summer of 2020 and 2021.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence are investigating the ownership of luxury yachts associated with Russian oligarchs. A Navy spokesperson and a Treasury Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

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The Ministry of Justice has set up a task force to go after the assets of the sanctioned Russian oligarch. In a discussion with reporters Friday, a Justice Department official said the task force will investigate individuals who assist Russian officials or a punishing oligarch in concealing their assets. These individuals may face sanctions violations or international money laundering charges.

Additionally, under recently published Commerce Department regulations changes, if more than 25 percent of an aircraft or yacht is made from US-made aircraft or naval parts, it cannot go to Russia.

If the yacht is in a foreign country and meets the definition of an American-made or American-made product, he will need a license to go to Russia. To actually seize a yacht, the United States would need to coordinate with a cooperating foreign government — Italy, in the case of Scheherazade — to prevent the ship from moving into Russian waters.

Some giant yachts moved out of European waters as the invasion of Ukraine began and the West began imposing sanctions allowing for asset confiscation. Scheherazade is undergoing repairs at Marina di Carrara, a port in Tuscany, and as of earlier this week it was in a dry dock, unable to start.

Guy Bennett Pierce, Scheherazade’s captain, said earlier this week that Putin was not the owner of the luxury yacht and that the Russian president had never set foot.

He declined to reveal the owner’s name, saying only on Monday that not anyone faced penalties. Captain Bennett Pierce did not answer his phone on Friday and did not answer a text message.

Last week, the Italian authorities boarded Scheherazade and checked the certification documents, trying to learn more about the ship’s ownership. Captain Bennett Pierce said earlier this week that he would provide Italian police with documents revealing the owner of the yacht.

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Italian authorities said they are taking a deep look at Scheherazade. In a process that could take up to two weeks, the Italian financial police will collect evidence and present it to a government commission, which will then decide whether the vessel’s ownership or use is related to a person on the sanctions list.

This association may be explicit ownership of a substantial portion of the vessel, evidence that a friend, affiliation, or partner lent his or her name to conceal the ownership of the sanctioned person, or that the money used to purchase the vessel came from illicit profits. If the commission finds that the evidence meets the minimum, the financial police can detain Scheherazade.

italian sea groupwhich owns the shipyard where Scheherazade is docked, said in a statement Thursday that based on the documents in its possession and “verifications conducted by the relevant authorities,” Scheherazade “is not attributable to the property of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

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US officials have stepped up their inspection of Russian oligarchs’ giant yachts, especially as the United States and Europe have imposed more sanctions on wealthy families who support Putin.

German-made Scheherazade has been in service since June 2020. Website super yacht Its cost is estimated at 700 million dollars. The ship has a full-size gym, two helicopter decks, and gold-plated fixtures in the bathrooms.

While US intelligence officials were looking at Scheherazade, scrutiny increased following the publication of the previous article in The Times.

It seems that Scheherazade has a sister ship, which is Crescent moonwhich was built by the same German manufacturer and entered service in 2018. The name of the Crescent project when it was under construction was “Thunder.Scheherazade wasLightning. “

Like Scheherazade, there is no public information identifying the ship’s owner, with the exception of an offshore shell company. The last time Al Hilal channel broadcast its position was on November 2, when it seemed to be approaching Barcelona, ​​Spain. Satellite images show that as of March 4, it was moored at Anchorage Catering to luxury yachts nearby there. Both ships are registered in the Cayman Islands and both share the same thing Designer.

Katie Benner Contributed to reporting from Washington, Christoph Koetel from New York, and Gaia Pianigiani From Siena, Italy.

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