The Mystery Behind The Superyachts Of Russian Oligarchs

At least nine superyachts owned by Russian oligarchs turned off their vessel tracking systems after Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

Bloomberg is reporting that the tracking signals from the yachts -which must remain active by maritime law – went dark between February 24, the day Russia began its invasion, and March 11, when US President Joe Biden announced additional sanctions on Russian oligarchs.

The bulk of the yachts identified by Bloomberg as going dark between those dates are linked to Russian oligarchs who are on Western sanctions lists, such as those considered by the US to be part of Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle.” A few vessels were connected to Russian tycoons who hadn’t been sanctioned at the time, Bloomberg said.

The International Maritime Organization’s website says all vessels of 300 gross metric tons or more that sail on international voyages must install tracking systems, known as automatic identification systems, or AIS, to provide information about their locations to the authorities and other ships.

Since the Ukraine invasion began, Russian oligarchs have been moving their yachts and private jets across the world in kind of a multi-billion dollar “shell game” as an apparent effort to protect their trophy assets from sanctions imposed by the US, UK, and other Western nations.

According to a report by The Daily Beast, Vagit Alekperov’s $80 million superyacht, Galactica Super Nova, stopped broadcasting its tracking signal after leaving Montenegro on March 2, leading to speculation that it might be trying to avoid detection. Alekperov, CEO of the Russian energy company Lukoil, hadn’t been sanctioned at the time.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that the Russian crew aboard a $700 million yacht named Scheherazade with potential links to President Putin have abandoned their jobs aboard the ship.

All employees of the ship, which some speculate may actually belong to Putin, vacated their posts allegedly due to obligations and “personal conflicts” related to the ongoing Russian war with Ukraine. A British crew has stepped in to take their places.

The yacht itself is enormous and contains two helipads, a spa, three saunas, a swimming pool, and other luxury amenities. 

Luxury yachts like the Scheherazade are being seized all over Europe, with countries like Italy and France impounding the nautical status symbols as a part of sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. France has seized several Russian yachts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and Germany has also impounded multiple luxury Russian yachts, with one notable seizure being valued at nearly $600 million. Italy has also seized Russian yachts valued at over $500 million.

The ship has not been legally seized by Italian or European Union authorities but is under scrutiny. Officials will not make further comments until the conclusion of an investigation by the Italian authorities, according to The New York Times

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