The Italian Prime Minister’s office said on Saturday that the police had seized a giant yacht owned by Russian billionaire Andrei Igorevich Melnichenko, a few days after the businessman was placed on the European Union’s sanctions list in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The government said the 143-meter yacht A, priced at 530 million euros ($578 million), was booked in the northern port of Trieste.
Designed by Philippe Starck and built by Knopskrug in Germany, the government said the ship is the world’s largest sailing yacht.
Melnichenko owned the largest fertilizer producer EuroChem Group and the SUEK coal company. The companies said in statements on Thursday that he resigned from the board of directors of the two companies and withdrew as the beneficiary as of Wednesday.
Melnichenko’s spokesman, Alex Andreev, said that the businessman “has nothing to do with the tragic events in Ukraine. He has no political affiliations.”
“There is absolutely no justification for putting it on the EU sanctions list,” Andreev said. “We will discuss these baseless and unjustified sanctions and believe that the rule of law and common sense will prevail.
Italian Economy Minister Daniele Franco said on Saturday that Italian police had confiscated since last week villas and yachts worth more than 700 million euros ($763.63 million) from prominent Russian figures who were placed on the European Union’s sanctions list.
“So far we’ve come to what’s been visible, and now we have to hit the rest like arrows. We’re doing a great job of highlighting what the trusts and front names protect,” Giuseppe Zavarana, the Italian tax police chief, told reporters in Bergamo on Saturday.
The police operations were part of a coordinated campaign by Western countries to punish wealthy Russians who say they are linked to President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, the luxury yacht that was said to be owned by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich arrived in the territorial waters of Montenegro on Saturday morning, according to a Reuters photographer.
Solaris is one of a series of yachts owned by Chelsea Football Club owner Abramovich, luxury goods publications SuperYachtFan, SuperYacht Times and Forbes report.
The 140 m (460 ft) ship is moored off the luxury resort of Porto Montenegro in Tivat. The boat left Barcelona on Tuesday.
Britain imposed sanctions on Abramovich on Thursday and froze his assets, citing what it called his close relationship with Putin. Abramovich denied the existence of such relations.
(1 dollar = 0.9167 euros)
(Additional reporting by Emilio Parodi in Bergamo and Stevo Vasyljevic in Tivat; writing by Giselda Fagnoni; Editing by Francis Kerry)