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Spain Seizes £458 Million Mega-Yacht Owned By Russian Billionaire

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Spain has seized a mega-yacht believed to be owned by Igor Sechin, a Russian oligarch and close confidant to President Vladimir Putin, authorities said on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

The £458 million ‘Crescent’ vessel was docked in the port of Tarragona in Catalonia, the Spanish Transport Ministry said on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

The 443-foot-long yacht, described by specialist publications as one of the biggest in the world, sails under a Caiman Island flag and arrived in Spain from Italy in November 2021, according to monitoring site Marine Traffic.

It is thought to belong to Sechin, the sanctioned chief executive of Russian oil giant Rosneft, a position he was personally appointed to by Putin.

The seizure comes a day after Spain impounded two other oligarch-owned vessels – the £140million Valerie, moored in Barcelona where it is undergoing repair, and the Lady Anastasia, a £6.5million boat.

Spain’s Transport Ministry, which confirmed the seizure but not the Crescent’s ownership, said it had docked in the Mediterranean port city on November 2 and had sought permission from the coast guard to depart on March 4, but never set sail.

Igor Sechin
Spanish authorities have seized the ‘Crescent’ mega yacht (pictured), believed to be owned by Igor Sechin, a Russian oligarch and close confidant to Vladimir Putin

It said it would hold the yacht while it sought to determine its ownership and whether the owner was covered by European Union sanctions targeted at Russia’s super-rich and politically connected over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

A source with Spain’s police told Reuters news agency that they believe the yacht belongs to Sechin, who is on U.S, UK and EU sanctions lists which were drawn up in the days after Putin launched his devastating invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The Amore Vero, another yacht thought to belong to 61-year-old Sechin, who was sanctioned by the EU on February 28, was seized by French authorities on March 4.

Igor Sechin
Widely seen as Putin’s right-hand man, Igor Sechin is the Chief Executive of Rosneft, the Russian state oil company

A spokeswoman for the Tarragona Marina told Reuters the Crescent was registered in the name of a non-Russian company, though she declined to give the name.

‘There are no Russian flagged or directly owned ships in the marina,’ she said.

According to specialist publication Superyacht Fan, the German-built Crescent is one of the largest yachts in the world and is rumoured to have cost more than $600 million (£458million). The publication says its features include a retractable helicopter hangar and a glass-bottomed pool.

Several yachts have been seized since allies of Putin started to be sanctioned. With much of their wealth tied up in off-shore accounts, seizing the assets of oligarchs is a quick way to make the sanctions hit-home.

Sechin is a close ally of Vladimir Putin, is one of the most powerful people in Russia, and has a reputation for being one of the most feared.

Nicknamed Darth Vader and seen as Putin’s right-hand man, he is the Chief Executive of Rosneft, the largest publicly owned oil and gas corporation in the world.

He has been a close confidante of Putin since the early 1990s. From 1991 to 1996, he worked at Saint Petersburg mayor’s office, becoming chief of staff to Putin in 1994.

He went on to serve as Putin’s deputy chief of staff when he became President in 2000.

He was appointed chairman of Rosneft by Putin in 2004 before serving as Deputy Prime Minister of Russia in Putin’s cabinet from 2008 to 2012.

Sechin is seen as one of Putin’s most conservative allies and commands the loyalties of the FSB, spreading its influence in Russia’s energy sector.

When sanctioning him, the UK Government said he is a ‘prominent Russian businessman with close personal ties’ to the Russian president, and he runs a company ‘of strategic significance’ to the Russian government.

In 2008, Hugo Chávez said that the idea for Venezuelan nuclear energy program came from Sechin, who went on to negotiate deals on weapons and nuclear technology deliveries to Venezuela.

A 2014 article said Sechin is ‘widely believed to be Russia’s second-most powerful person’, claims that have been repeated since.

The taxes on the Rosneft company alone brought in £10billion for the Russian government in 2020, enough to fund about two-fifths of the annual military budget.

He has been married twice, with his second wife Olga Rozhkova seen frequently using his superyacht Amore Vero, which was seized in France as part of sanctions against Sechin over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Officials in France seized the £86million superyacht linked to Sechin in the Mediterranean port of La Ciotat close to Marseille last week.

The US government first sanctioned Sechin in March 2014, freezing his assets and banning him from travelling there.

The EU blacklisted Sechin and froze his assets at the end of February.

The Crescent is the third yacht tied to Russian oligarchs detained by Spanish authorities in three days.

The first to be impounded was the £140million Valerie – which is ultimately owned by Sergey Chemezov, a friend of Putin’s from their KGB days.

The boat – which features seven bedrooms, a 6ft swimming pool, spa with massage facilities, a gym and a helideck – was the venue for Jennifer Lopez’ 52nd birthday celebrations with Ben Affleck last year.

‘Bennifer’, as they were known during their power-couple heydey, were pictured cosying up on the vessel’s sundeck while it was anchored near Saint Tropez in July.

The second vessel seized was the Lady Anastasia, a £6.5million vessel owned by the head of Russia’s defence import agency Alexander Mikheyev, which was impounded in Majorca on Tuesday.

Police sources said the boat, which partially sank last month after a Ukrainian sailor sabotaged it, is being held at the marina of Port Adriano.

Taras Ostapchuk said he tried to scuttle the yacht after seeing images of missiles striking Ukrainian apartment blocks – then realising Mikheyev is an arms dealer.

Ostapchuk, who was arrested, has since fled Spain to fight in the war for Ukraine.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, speaking on Spanish TV after the Valerie was seized, said: ‘Today we seized – the technical term is provisionally immobilised – a yacht belonging to one of the principal oligarchs.

‘There will be more. We have to act forcefully and firmly against Vladimir Putin, his regime and his oligarchs, who have enriched themselves in a system of corruption by oppressing the Russian people.’

He did not name the vessel but well-placed sources identified it as Valerie, which Chemezov owns via his stepdaughter – Anastasia Ignatova.

Sailing under the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the vessel is registered to Ignatova, through a British Virgin Islands company, according to a 2021 article published in the Pandora Papers information leak.

Chemezov is a former high-ranking general who befriended Putin while the pair were stationed in Soviet East Germany together, working for the KGB.

He enriched himself on the basis of his personal connections to Putin after the latter became Russian president in 2001.

In 2007, Putin appointed Chemezov as the head of defence and technology conglomerate Rostec which is worth tens of billions of dollars.

Solaris, a 460ft superyacht belonging to Roman Abramovich, was also being repaired at the same Barcelona shipyard as the Valerie until just a few days ago.

But the £420million vessel hurriedly departed for the ‘safe haven’ port of Montenegro where it docked at the weekend, just before sanctions hit.

Earlier this month it emerged Spanish Ministry of Transport officials had asked marinas in the Balearic Islands to inform them whether any vessels belonging to Russian nationals over 87ft were docked there.

Reports at the time said one of the superyachts that would be affected if seizures subsequently took place as part of a package of EU-ordered sanctions, would be Lady Anastasia.

The £5million yacht was at the centre of a drama last month in which Ukrainian sailor Taras Ostapchuk, an engineer on the vessel, tried to sink it.

The 55-year-old was arrested and later travelled to his homeland to sign up for military duty after being released by a court on bail in the Majorcan capital Palma.

He identified the owner of the vessel as Alexander Mijeev and said he acted after seeing a helicopter carrying weapons he believes were made by the oligarch’s firm attacking an apartment block in Kyiv similar to one where his family lives.

The unrepentant sailor, speaking after being released by a judge pending an ongoing probe, vowed to join the fight against Putin’s soldiers as he took a plane from Majorca to Poland before travelling overland to Ukraine.

He said: ‘I don’t regret for a minute what I did, only that I didn’t achieve my objective which was to sink the yacht.’

Fellow crew members also believed to be Ukrainian saved the vessel from serious damage along with staff at Port Adriano marina in the south-west of the island.

Valerie is registered to Chemezov’s stepdaughter Anastasia Ignatova according to a 2021 article published in the Pandora Papers information leak.

Source: Daily Mail

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