On Friday, Italian authorities seized a giant superyacht that is said to be owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Italian government recommended that the ship be impounded as part of the West’s ongoing campaign of sanctions against Russia.
The Daily Mail reported that Italian authorities said that the $700 million mega-yacht named “The Scheherazade,” is more than 450 feet long and contains spas, swimming pools, and two helicopter pads.
The giant yacht has been the subject of an ongoing investigation by Italy’s financial police since the end of this past March and has been docked at Marina di Carrara near Pisa since this past September as it undergoes a refit.
The Italian government’s seizure of the ship came late at night as Italian officials grew increasingly concerned that The Scheherazade was going to slip away from their jurisdiction and into international waters to avoid Western sanctions.
Reportedly, in recent days there has been a flurry of activity around the yacht. In March, the ship’s majority Russian crew had been replaced with a British staff overnight.
Indicating that the ship had connections to Russia, The Italian Financial Police released a statement that said, “After verification by the fiscal authorities, it has come to light that there is a significant economic connection between the owner of The Scheherazade and senior elements of the Russian government.”
The statement continued, “On the basis of these elements, it has been recommended that the yacht be placed on the current European Union sanctions list, and the Minister of Finance in Rome has agreed.”
Mariateresa Levi, a member of the Italian Financial police, said, “I am not in a position to tell you who the actual owner is, but we are satisfied that the yacht should be seized, and in the next few hours, officers will board and impound her.”
The ship’s captain has denied that Putin is the owner of the superyacht while refusing to disclose who the real owner is.
There have been claims that the vessel might belong to Eduard Khudainatov, a Russian oil tycoon who has previously been able to escape Western sanctions, unlike many other Russian oligarchs.
Despite this, activists and investigative journalists linked to Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, are adamant that the ship belongs to Putin.
A probe into the vessel’s former Russian crew revealed that almost all of them worked for Russian secret service agencies charged with protecting the Russian president.