The Scheherazade superyacht comes with 1,001 tales of mystery

Many whisper that it is owned by Vladimir Putin, but not even super-sleuths have been able to verify that

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Reports claim it is the world’s most expensive yacht whose owner has not been publicly identified.

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An anti-corruption unit working for Alexei Navalny, the jailed opposition leader, says the $825-million Scheherazade — launched in 2020 under the Cayman Islands flag, with ownership registered in the Marshall Islands — is secretly owned by Russia’s president.

The yacht has been in for maintenance and repairs since October 2020 in Porta di Carrara, 55 kilometers north of Pisa, Italy, where federal authorities are now under pressure to seize it and investigate any links to Vladimir Putin.

In a speech to the Italian parliament Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the government to seize the vessel. “Don’t be a resort for murderers,” he urged. “Block all their real estate, accounts and yachts … sixteen their accounts, their yachts, from Scheherezade to the smallest one.”

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This is a video by the Navalny-founded anti-corruption FBK Investigation Department explaining their research, with English sub-titles.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

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“One thing really stands out,” notes a tweet from Maria Pevchick. The head of FBK has found some striking details — not via the ship’s ownership records but by who manages it and pays its bills.

The list of employees from the captain to security deckhands “almost entirely consists of Russians. Russian passports are not the only thing they have in common. They also work for the FSO, the Federal Protective Service of the Russian Federation,” Pevchick says.

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“We managed to identify at least 10 FSO officers that are listed as personnel members of Scheherezade,” Pevchikh says. “They are Russian state employees, military personnel, and they regularly travel to Italy as a group to work on the mysterious yacht.”

The Navalny group also claimed it had identified about a dozen of the crew who were registered at the official address of the Russian Federal Security Service at his Black Sea residence near Sochi.

The British captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce told the New York Times earlier this month that the ship was owned by a Russian but that he did not believe it was Putin: “I have never seen him. I have never met him.” He would not say more, owing to a “watertight nondisclosure agreement.”

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But the Times said it had spoken to a former crew member who claimed that Russians replaced the international crew when the “boss” was on board. The Scheherazade had sailed to the Black Sea over the past two summers.

The ship has six decks, two heli-decks, a swimming pool with a retractable roof that converts into a dance floor, gold-plated bathroom fixtures and has room for 18 guests in nine luxury cabins in addition to a crew of 40, residing in 20 cabins.

An ex-worker told the UK’s Sun that “there is even a hospital, which makes sense when you hear rumors of Putin being terminally ill.”

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The Daily Mail notes that the Italian Sea Group, which owns the yard at which the Scheherazade is docked, has denied Putin is the owner but some information may emerge on Thursday when the company presents its financial results. The newspaper has published photos of the ship’s lavish interior.

The name Scheherazade is taken from the female storyteller in the medieval Middle Eastern tale One Thousand and One Nights — ironic, given its theme is about morals and ethics — and is also the name of the tale-based symphony by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov .

— with additional reporting by National Post News Services

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