The Race to Hide Mega-yachts
Russian Oligarchs are scrambling to hide their mega-yachts as countries all across the globe continue to impose sanctions on Russian finances due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Megayachts, the object of a massive dick-measuring contest of the ultra-wealthy, are by definition longer than 80 meters (260 feet) and almost impossible to hide due to their size. Unlike supercars or jewellery and other objects of wealth, Megayachts can not be transported quickly and discreetly across borders and into safe waters; they need time.
And now, with the EU targeting oligarchs with the seizure of their yachts, luxury apartments and private jets, that time has run out for Russian assets that have not been secured in neutral or Russian lands or waters.
An example of one of those assets is the Amore Vero. A $120m megayacht that was seized on Wednesday by French customs authorities after it was "taking steps to sail off urgently." The yacht is allegedly owned by Igor Sechin, the owner of the Russian state energy company, Rosneft. However, that is disputed by the company that manages the ship, who denies that Sechin is the owner.
Another Russian asset caught in the crosshairs is the 512-foot mega-yacht, Dilbar. Dilbar, a $600m mega-yacht owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, was brought into Hamburg, Germany in late October for maintenance. According to the White House, it has since then been confiscated. Although, other reports by German officials deny that claim. However, in either case, Usmanov, who was sanctioned by the EU earlier this week, will not be getting his yacht back anytime soon as all maintenance on the yacht has been stopped, and, any request for the yacht to be brought out of the port has to be approved by german officials.
There is also the Lady M Yacht, which was detained earlier today, in Imperia, Italy, by Italian authorities. The mega-yacht worth $70m, was seized from its owner, the sanctioned Russian billionaire Alexey Mordashov, in compliance with current EU sanctions that are affecting over 500 Russian individuals or entities whose assets are to be traced and frozen.
For some Russian billionaires, their massive seafaring vessels were already out at sea when the Russian invasion started which helped them avoid imidate seizure, but even they are now facing their problems.
According to MarineTraffic data, there are more than a dozen megayachts owned by Russian Oligarchs around the world, and many of them are on the move.
Fleeing from Barcelona, Spain, is the "Galactica Super Nova." An $80m, 230-foot long megayacht owned by Vagit Alekperov. The president of Russian oil company Lukoil. The "Galactica Super Nova" has currently set sail for Tivat, Montenegro, where EU sanctions do not apply.
Anchored off the Maldives, there is: Clio, a mega-yacht owned by Russian industrialist Oleg Deripaska; Titan, owned by Alexander Abramov; Ocean Victory owned by Viktor Rashnikov; Nirvana, owned by Vladimir Potanin; and, on its way from Turkey, is the Sea Rhapsody, a mega-yacht owned by Russian banker Andrey Kostin.
And moored in St. Maarten is Eclipse, a 162.5 mega-yacht equipped with two helicopter pads, a submarine, and a military-grade missile detection system. The Eclipse, officially owned by Roman Abramovich, is speculated to be a refuge for Putin as, according to a Russian source, “Yachts generally do not have missile detection systems or anti-missile defences. People believe it was built for Putin. That yacht will be top of the list to be seized.”
Lastly, is the Graceful. Speculated to be owned by Putin, the Graceful fled a port in Hamburg, Germany, on Feb. 7th and arrived on Kaliningrad, Russia, on Feb. 9th, just two weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, even though many of these vessels managed to escape from immediate capture, some are still in unfavourable conditions.
A small island nation like the Maldives is the perfect hiding place for criminals to hide as it does not have an extradition treaty with the US. However, it is an island nation with limited resources. And, with four mega-yachts mooring there, it will be hard for them to keep up with the consumption of resources from refuelling restocking these floating behemoths.
"There are a number of these yachts in the Maldives, and unless those countries put sanctions in place they're probably safer there," According to maritime accountant, Alasdair Milroy, "But you can only spend so long in someplace like the Maldives on a yacht of that size without needing provisions, or to refuel, so I don't know how well that will last for a longer period. I don't think they'll be able to do that for that long."
And while their mega-yachts are hiding on small island nations, many operations are taking place to find and disrupt or seize their other assets are tacking place.
One of the largest of those operations, dubbed KleptoCapture, is being conducted by the US government. That operation includes experts in money laundering, tax enforcement and national security.
However, although that operation is helpful in the current situation, it would be great if the United States continued their investigations to the rest of the global kleptocracy when they are done with Russia. To stop global money hoarders from stashing in houses overseas, and to keeps, the seas and ports were free from these floating islands of greed.
If not, some may take matters into their own hands. A Ukrainian ship engineer was arrested on the Spanish island of Mallorca for partially sinking a luxury yacht owned by Alexander Mijeev, a Russian military weapons company executive. "I don't regret anything I've done and I would do it again," he told the court on Sunday. “I watched the news about the war. There was a video of a helicopter attack on a building in Kyiv. The armaments used are produced by the yacht owner's company. They were attacking innocents. He told officers: "My boss is a criminal who sells weapons that kill the Ukrainian people."