A superyacht worth an estimated $700 million that is moored off the western coast of Italy is owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin, an anti-corruption unit of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny claims.
Nearly half the crew of the Scheherazade are employed by the Federal Security Service, or FSO, which handles security for Putin, the Times of London reported, citing a video released by the dissident’s team.
The 459-foot-long, German-built vessel has been undergoing repairs at the Marina di Carrara in Tuscany, possibly explaining why it has not fled as other oligarchs’ yachts have amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The six-deck superyacht features a swimming pool, a gym, spa and two helicopter pads, according to the news outlet.
In the last two summers, it has sailed to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics and Putin’s summer residence, Bocharov Ruchey, the Times of London reported.
The FBK said the Scheherazade’s chief officer, Sergey Grishin, was listed in a contact list as “Sergey G FSO,” according to the outlet.
Anatoly Furtel, the bosun — a crew member in charge of equipment — was registered at an address in Sochi used by the FSO unit providing protection at Bocharov Ruchey, the Times of London reported, citing leaked databases.
Furtel’s assistant Alexander Pechurkin also was linked by records to the FSO unit, Navalny’s researchers reportedly claimed.
“The same people who take care of Putin in his residences and on his trips, who manage his life, fly together to Italy to work on one of the most expensive yachts in the world,” Navalny ally and journalist Maria Pevchikh said in the video, the Independent reported.
Italian authorities have not yet announced who owns the Scheherazade, which is masked by multiple offshore companies, according to the Times of London.
“But what really matters is that the real owner of the Scheherazade is guarded by the FSO,” Navalny’s team said.
The Scheherazade’s British captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce, has denied the allegations about Putin’s ownership, saying the strongman has never even set foot on the vessel.
“I have never seen him. I have never met him,” he told the New York Times.
The skipper told the Times in a phone interview that the owner was not on any sanctions list. He did not rule out that the owner could be Russian, but cited a “watertight nondisclosure agreement” in refusing to say more.
Bennett-Pearce added that he had “no choice” but to provide Italian investigators documents revealing the owner’s identity, saying he had been told they would be handled with “confidentiality.”
“I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that this will clear the vessel of all negative rumors and speculations,” he wrote a Times reporter.
Three European countries have seized several luxury yachts owned by Russian oligarchs as a result of the latest sanctions against Moscow.
The confiscated vessels include Alexey Mordashov’s 213-foot yacht, Gennady Timchenko’s 132-foot watercraft, and Audrey Melnichenko’s $578 million, 469-foot superyacht — all seized in Italy, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said recently.
The seizures are among the West’s latest efforts to hit Putin and those close to him over Russia’s brutal assault against Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24.