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France seizes yacht linked to Russian oligarch at Mediterranean port

A picture taken on March 3, 2022 in a shipyard of La Ciotat, near Marseille, southern France, shows a yacht, Amore Vero, owned by a company linked to Igor Sechin, chief executive of Russian energy giant Rosneft.
The yacht, Amore Vero, owned by a company linked to Igor Sechin, chief executive of Russian energy giant Rosneft. Photograph: Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty Images

France’s finance minister has announced the country has seized a yacht linked to Rosneft boss, Igor Sechin, in the Mediterranean port of La Ciotat, as German local authorities denied reports they had also seized the $600m superyacht belonging to Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov.

French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said it had seized a yacht linked to Rosneft boss Igor Sechin in the Mediterranean port of La Ciotat.

The finance ministry said the yacht was owned by an entity of which Sechin had been identified as the main shareholder.

The announcement came as authorities in Hamburg denied reports that Usmanov’s yacht had been seized in a shipyard in the German port city.

“No yachts have been confiscated,” a spokesperson for Hamburg’s economic authority said. “A handover [of the yacht to its owner] is also currently not planned. No yacht is going to leave the port that is not allowed to do so.”

The Hamburg local authority said any order to seize properties subject to sanctions would have to come from higher federal customs authorities.

A Forbes report citing three sources in the yacht industry had reported on Usmanov’s 156-metre (512-foot) yacht Dilbar, valued at $600m and regarded as the largest motor yacht in the world by gross tonnage, was seized by German authorities on Wednesday.

Usmanov was on a list of billionaires to face sanctions from the European Union in response to Russia’s 24 February invasion of Ukraine.

Usmanov’s 156-metre (512-foot) yacht Dilbar, valued at $600m and regarded as the largest motor yacht in the world by gross tonnage, was seized by German authorities on Wednesday, according to a Forbes report based on three sources in the yacht industry.

The Dilbar, owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, in Weymouth Bay in the UK in 2020.
The Dilbar, owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, in Weymouth Bay in the UK in 2020. Photograph: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

The Guardian understands that repair works on the Dilbar yet have currently been put on hold, and that the ship is not in a seaworthy state.

The yacht has been in the yards of shipbuilding firm Blohm+Voss since late October. A spokesperson declined to give a statement but said that all projects by shipbuilder Lürssen would be treated “in accordance with the law”.

Forbes reported that representatives for Usmanov did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ukraine’s adviser to the minister of internal affairs, Anton Geraschenko, responded to the report on Telegram by saying the yacht should be sent to Ukraine and refitted as a missile cruiser.

Usmanov bought Dilbar in 2016 for a reported cost of $600m from German shipbuilder Lürssen, which custom-built it for him over 52 months.

The firm describes it as “one of the most complex and challenging yachts ever built, in terms of both dimensions and technology”.

At the time of its launch, Lürssen CEO, Peter Lürssen, said: “Dilbar has the most advanced security technologies of any superyacht in the world. But the things you read about it containing an anti-aircraft missile defence system are all nonsense.”

At 15,917 tonnes, it’s the world’s largest motor yacht by gross tonnage, and is typically staffed by a crew of 96 people, with space for 24 passengers in 12 suites. It has the largest pool ever installed on a yacht as well as two helicopter pads, a sauna, a beauty salon and a gym.

At least five other superyachts owned by Russian billionaires are now anchored or cruising in Maldives, an Indian Ocean island nation that does not have an extradition treaty with the US, ship tracking data showed.

The vessels’ arrival in the archipelago off the coast of Sri Lanka follows the imposition of severe western sanctions on Russia.

Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov at a conference in Moscow in 2016
Usmanov at a conference in Moscow in 2016. Photograph: Yuri Kochetkov/EPA

The Clio superyacht, owned by Oleg Deripaska, the founder of aluminium giant Rusal, who was sanctioned by the US in 2018, was anchored off the capital Male on Wednesday, according to shipping database MarineTraffic.

The Titan, owned by Alexander Abramov, a cofounder of steel producer Evraz, arrived on 28 February.

Three more yachts owned by Russian billionaires were seen cruising in Maldives waters on Wednesday, the data showed. They include the 88-metre (288 ft) Nirvana owned by Russia’s richest man, Vladimir Potanin. Most vessels were last seen anchored in Middle Eastern ports earlier in the year.

A spokesperson for Maldives’ government did not respond to a request for comment.

The $600m Dilbar is regarded as the largest motor yacht in the world.
The $600m Dilbar is regarded as the largest motor yacht in the world. Photograph: Geoff Moore/Rex/Shutterstock

The US has said it will take strict action to seize property of sanctioned Russians.

“This coming week, we will launch a multilateral transatlantic taskforce to identify, hunt down, and freeze the assets of sanctioned Russian companies and oligarchs: their yachts, their mansions, and any other ill-gotten gains that we can find and freeze under the law,” the White House said in a tweet on Sunday.

Washington imposed sanctions on Deripaska and other influential Russians in 2018 because of their ties to president Vladimir Putin after alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election, which Moscow denies.

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