Roman Abramovich's $1 Billion Five-Yacht Fleet Exposed

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Apr 02, 2022 - 03:00 PM

Since the start of Russia's  "special military operation" in Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions levied by the West, the western press (and western authorities) have become obsessed with tracking the luxury assets belonging to Russia's billionaire class. Italy has already seized hundreds of millions of euros' worth of yachts and villas, and it's not the only jurisdiction seizing assets (or preparing to do so).

Given his high visibility in the West, it's perhaps not a surprise that Roman Abramovich's assets (which, until very recently, included Chelsea Football Club, the popular English Premier League team which he recently placed in the hands of a trust ahead of a sale) have been the focus of particular attention. Two of his yachts ended up in Turkey after fleeing European sanctions.

Now, an investigation by the FT has managed to pierce the veil of secrecy surrounding Abramovich's assets, and as it turns out, the two megayachts mentioned above represent only a part of his fleet.

The Solaris and Eclipse (worth $474 million and $437 million, respectively) are safely in Turkey. But the FT has discovered that the Russian billionaire also owns the Halo and Garçon, which are both presently moored in Antigua, leaving them within the reach of European authorities.

Per the report, the Antiguan government was unaware of his ownership of the luxury vessels docked on the island prior to being informed by the FT.

This opacity of ownership, a common theme that authorities have confronted in seeking to track down assets owned by sanctioned individuals (while Abramovich has been sanctioned by the EU, Washington has so far held off, purportedly at the urging of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky), illustrates just how difficult it can be to find and seize oligarchs' assets.

According to the FT, both Halo and Garçon, valued at $38 million and $20 million, respectively, and are now at risk of being seized.

In a letter to the British high commissioner to Barbados regarding the yachts, Antiguan minister of foreign affairs Paul Chet Greene said the island would “provide full assistance to the government of the United Kingdom” if it receives a request under the two nations’ Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

The letter noted that Antigua had requested information on the company that owns the two boats - British Virgin Islands-registered Wenham Overseas Limited - after "persistent allegations by the Financial Times that the vessels could be owned by Mr Roman Abramovich." In response, the British high commission provided Antiguan authorities with a letter, seen by the FT, "from the Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands which states the beneficial owner of Wenham Overseas Ltd is Roman Abramovich".

What's more, British authorities also believe Abramovich is the owner of a fifth yacht presently docked in the South of France.

A person with knowledge of Abramovich’s boat collection and documents seen by the FT indicate that the oligarch may also still be the owner of Sussurro, the first yacht he bought in 1998, despite reports he had given it to an ex-wife in a divorce. The person who correctly identified the two yachts in Antigua as belonging to Abramovich told the FT the oligarch still owned Sussurro. The vessel’s owner is listed in maritime registers as Vesuvius International Limited in the British Virgin Islands. BVI documents show this company was deregistered there in 2017. Another Vesuvius International was registered in Jersey the same year.

In total, Abramovich's fleet of vessels is worth roughly $1 billion. And while the two most expensive yachts are already safely stowed away in Turkey, he will likely need to move fast if he wants to avoid the rest of his fleet from falling into the hands of European authorities.