Italian authorities seized a $700 million superyacht linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday evening, saying that its owner had "significant economic and business links" to "prominent elements of the Russian government," according to the NYTimes.
Scheherazade, a 140-meter vessel that boasts six deck levels, two helicopter pads, a swimming pool, and possibly even an anti-drone defense system, showed signs that it was preparing to set sail from the port of Marina di Carrara, on the northern coast of Tuscany.
The Italian finance ministry said an investigation had found the vessel's owner (the ministry didn't mention) "threatened peace and international security." The person also "undermined or threatened the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine."
Law enforcement boarded the vessel late Friday to seize the expensive asset.
Italian media outlets have reported that Eduard Khudainatov, a Russian oil/gas billionaire (unsanctioned), owns the yacht. They noted that Khudainatov has close relations with Igor Sechin, an oligarch and close friend of Putin.
Italian financial police officials didn't name Khudainatov, though they said the yacht was linked to "prominent elements of the Russian government." According to U.S. officials, that "prominent element" is Putin.
Scheherazade has been hiding in plain for two months. As early as March 9, locals near the port of Marina di Carrara nicknamed the vessel "Putin's yacht." The vessel's ownership has been cloaked in secrecy because "Putin is known to list family or friends as owners, with his name almost never used on official documents," said Daily Mail.
Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, lawyer, and anti-corruption activist, is convinced that it belongs to Putin. Navalny supporter Maria Pevchikh tweeted days before the seizure:
"Ok, guys, we have a problem. Putin's secret $700m yacht is about to escape the sanctions by simply taking off from Italy. It's a matter of days now. The Italian authorities are doing nothing to stop it. So we should."
Navalny's team has allegedly reviewed ownership documents of the Scheherazade and said the owner is an offshore company from the Marshall Islands.
Daily Mail noted the Russian crew was swapped out in late March with an all British. Captain Guy Bennett-Pearce recently told NYTimes that Putin isn't the owner of Scheherazade and has never been on board.
Over the last month, Italy seized upwards of a billion dollars worth of mansions and superyachts owned by Russians. The Scheherazade could be the most significant find yet.