The Italian government has ordered the seizure of a luxury yacht worth $700m (£530m) that has been linked in the media to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The six-deck Scheherazade had been undergoing repairs in the Italian port of Marina di Carrara since September, but recent activity at the dockside suggested that the crew might be preparing to put to sea.
It is one of the world’s biggest and most expensive yachts allegedly linked to Russian billionaires and has two helicopter landing pads and can host up to 18 guests and 40 crew.
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The Italian finance ministry said in a statement that investigations showed the owner of the boat had ties to “prominent elements of the Russian government” and with people targeted by European Union sanctions.
The Scheherazade’s owner has never been publicly identified, but there have been rumours that it belongs to Mr Putin or a member of his inner circle.
A source with direct knowledge of the investigation into the vessel told Reuters that Italian police believed the owner was Eduard Khudainatov, the former chief of Russian energy giant Rosneft who is not currently a target of EU sanctions.
The finance ministry did not name the owner, but said it had asked the European Union to add the person to the sanctions list and had ordered the yacht to be seized pending a decision.
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In March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Italian officials to seize the Scheherazade yacht as well as other assets allegedly linked to Russian oligarchs.
Other countries including the US and authorities in Gibraltar have seized yachts and mega yachts whose owners have links to Mr Putin and Russian oligarchs.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some Western countries including the US have focused on seizing yachts and luxury assets owned by Russians.