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Italy won't say who's paying for the care of a $700 million superyacht tied to Putin

The Scheherazade, a 460-foot superyacht, has been held in Italy since May 2022 in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It is believed to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Laura Lezza
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The Scheherazade, a 460-foot superyacht, has been held in Italy since May 2022 in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It is believed to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Scheherazade superyacht was impounded by the Italian government in May 2022 in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Instead of falling into disrepair, Italy has allowed its owner to maintain and refit the vessel, but it won't disclose who is footing the bill.

The Financial Times reported on Sunday that the vessel has been held at port in Marina di Carrara, located almost 90 miles northwest of Florence, since it was impounded by authorities in the spring of 2022. For over a year, the Italian government has permitted the owner to continue paying for the ship's staff, its maintenance and refitting of the vessel. But Italy won't identify the owner.

Italy's Finance Ministry said in a May 2022 news release that the superyacht had "significant economic and business links" with "prominent elements of the Russian government" but didn't name the owner of the ship.

According to the website SuperYachtFan, the 460-foot superyacht belongs to Russian billionaire Eduard Khudainatov. However, Bloomberg News reported in 2022 that he is a "straw owner" of the superyacht — as well as another ship — and that the Scheherazade actually belongs to Putin.

The Financial Times reported that the Scheherazade has 22 cabins, two helicopter decks and a spa and that it's being refitted by the Italian Sea Group. NPR reached out to the Italian Sea Group for comment but did not hear back before publication.

The United States created Task Force KleptoCapture in the wake of Putin's war against Ukraine, aiming to hold Russian oligarchs accountable for evading sanctions. In its one year of operation, the task force has brought charges to at least 35 individuals and entities, NPR previously reported.

Part of those efforts included seizing luxury items belonging to billionaires with ties to the Kremlin. This includes items like a 348-foot yacht seized in Fiji in May 2022, which is valued at about $300 million and is now sitting in San Diego.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dustin Jones
Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.
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