Russian crew members on a mysterious $700 million luxury yacht that US officials say could be owned by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia abruptly quit their jobs a few weeks ago and the Tuscan coastal town where it is being repaired, while the ship came under scrutiny, local union leaders and workers say.
The crew members had been regulars in the small port of Marina di Carrara since the autumn of 2020, when the 459-metre yacht, Scheherazade, arrived in dry dock less than four months after construction. No owner has been publicly identified.
“They were replaced by a British crew,” Paolo Gozzani, the local leader of Italy’s General Confederation of Labor union, said on Wednesday. “I don’t know if the yacht is indeed Putin’s or not, but I’m concerned about the consequences for shipyard workers if the police seize or seize the ship.”
Shipyard workers and regular visitors to the shipyard private lounge confirmed that the Russians had routinely supervised work on the yacht and had drinks there in the evenings at the bar or played pool. The yacht, valued at approximately $700 million by the website SuperYachtFan, has two helicopter decks, a pool with a retractable cover that converts into a dance floor, and a gym.
This week, the investigative team of Russia’s opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny released a video claiming, based on a 2020 crew manifesto, that a dozen Russian crewmembers from the Scheherazade either worked for or had any connection with the Russian Federal Protection Service. The team concluded that the yacht must belong to Mr Putin or some of his close associates.
The real ownership of the Scheherazade is hidden by several shell companies. US officials this month said they had found initial clues that it was linked to Mr Putin, but declined to describe what information they had.
In an interview with DailyExpertNews this month, the yacht’s captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce, declined to disclose the owner’s name, but denied that Mr Putin owned or had ever been on the yacht. He was not immediately available for comment Thursday.
Italy’s financial police have been investigating Scheherazade’s property for weeks. Italian investigators declined to comment on Thursday, saying the investigation is continuing.
In a speech to the Italian parliament this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Italy to prevent Russians from vacationing in the country, and to freeze their assets, bank accounts and yachts, “from the Scheherazade to the smallest “.
Italian authorities have frozen more than €800 million in assets from Russian oligarchs on the European sanctions list, including villas in Sardinia, Tuscany, Liguria and Lake Como, and three yachts.